Finally, advertising agencies have a chance to reinvent themselves.
All along they have been happy to play the role of service provider. Ask an agency for just about any type of delivery in the communication spectrum – the answer is yes, we will do it; or no we don’t, but we know someone who can get it done.
In that sense the befuddling entity we call an ad agency then and now is like the client service executive whose role puzzled even David Ogilvy – when asked what the person does, every answer revealed that he or she is a go between, and relies, for example, on the art team for design, copy for content and media for placement.
From nostalgia, let’s head to the heady, cloud-driven, performance driven, tech-driven ad world of 2022. The home and MNC variant of ad agencies have all grown, and even as print took a dive, those who bet early on digital have seen their stars rise. Agencies have invested in people and technology and where in-house tech needs a leg up, partnerships have been formed with niche IT firms specializing in advertising technology.
Despite all this advancement, tech-led delivery is still at arm’s length formost ad agencies. Let’s take Google Display Network – clear case of outsourcing a digital campaign to big tech, a global mammoth who has got everything figured out, from approval of creatives, to cost per thousand to the choice of sites.
What if we can take over the controls, and run our own network? That’s how programmatic ad campaigns came about. Ad agencies discovered they could outsource the placement to someone other than Google, and found their clients benefited from a real-time online auction model, in which the cost per thousand either stayed at a prescribed point or reduced when the programmatic platform challenged the inventory holder to offer a lower price.
Four years ago, after spending 10 years as a marketer for banks in the Middle East, I started an ad tech platform with a unified focus: Programmatic Buying in partnership with thousands of web portals, and placement of ads through data segments – such as tractor owners in Hungary or home seekers in New Jersey, or geo-targeting of auto dealerships in Malabar Hill, Mumbai (imagine targeting visitors to a Toyota showroom with a Hyundai ad, we do such things all the time).
There’s one other advantage with programmatic buying, you can show ads that Google may not. For example: Crypto and NFT campaigns are difficult to run on the Google Display Network. Our platform, being independent, can execute the campaign as long as all guidelines for online advertising of NFT and Crypto products are adhered to, and relevant disclaimers are part of the message.
How are we faring? Very well, thank you, and in fact we did better all through the pandemic, because offline sales went down and online scaled up in markets we operate in. Yet in our delivery model or engagement format, we found one lacuna: Agencies were approaching us, we would work out the media plan, get it approved, and the execution was done by my team.
What have we done now? Created a white-label platform. Easiest way to understand this is to enter a supermarket: Take a walk along the aisle and look for let’s say grains and spices. In a retail chain, you will find corn flakes, wheat flour and sugar wrapped in packets that have the store’s brand name on it, along with a leading FMCG brand. The store has sourced from a third party and put their own (white) label on some of their products. The customer, drawing comfort from the retailer’s name on the pack is likely to pick it up, and quite almost the same grain or spice quality is offered at a lower price.
Likewise, we created an end-to-end programmatic buying solution, packaged it with futuristic features, and now we give you the controls. The next time the CEO of big-ticket client listens to your presentation, you can present the cloud-based, white-labeled platform as yours, and just like the sack of sugar, no one will know the difference because we have trained your team during pre-sales, and your ownership and operating comfort will shine through along with your own URL and campaign emails.
Of course, you don’t have to rent our platform, you can spend two years to design one, eliminate bugs, and then prop it up at the next presentation. Most MNC agencies work on a proprietary platform route, one because they have the funds, and two because they like to reinvent the wheel.
This call to action is for all others who do not have an in-house advertising technology for digital planning and buying, and for the wise few who will find it easier to use a ready solution than brings their platform to market speed.
David Ogilvy, the doyen of advertising, said, “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ballpark, Aim for the company of immortals.” You should too with your own version of a white label that makes you look as good as Clark Gable, if not Google.
Article is authored by Sandeep Kuriakose, founder of BPRISE.