The New Power Partnerships

April 1, 2014

By Helen Lin

At one time, all it took to make an agency was a stellar art director/copywriter team. While witty, resonant ad messages will always be critical and appreciated by advertisers and consumers alike, in our increasingly fragmented media world, it takes many more skill sets to bring brilliant executions to life at the right time, in the right context, for maximum impact. Remember the Oreo Blackout and Esurance's post-Super Bowl ad? Of course you do.

No longer are we limited to speaking at consumers in the lean-back world; instead we look to interact with customers and provide them messaging that is relevant contextually and in line with their behaviors. Search and social listening, third-party and first-party behavioral data, and adtech advancements now enable agencies to continue to iterate with the consumer's actions at a much more granular level, as well as plan and react to consumer responses to campaigns midflight. These activities also enable agencies to develop campaign experiences tailored for different consumer segments informed by an individual's former experiences with a brand or competitor.

But these changes mean that new teams and players must be enlisted to bring campaigns to life and ensure that brand promises are paid off. Adding to the traditional art director/copywriter pairs are emerging teams that serve as the new backbone of campaign planning.

Communications Planning and User Experience

While the role of communications planning still revolves around media consumption, research, and channel selection, the communications planner's job has evolved.

Meanwhile, the role of user experience is to create interactivity and engagement platforms that convert audiences into participants. Working in tandem, user experience and communications planners apply insights and portraits to create a truly compelling brand experience that will keep users engaged and fulfilled, which translates to consumer loyalty and brand advocacy.

Content and Data

Enter the content experts, who are partnered with data and analytics to develop and discover optimal messaging, formats, and platforms that best construct seamless and engaging experience paths conceived by communications planning and user experience. Successful content marketing may require several iterations of the same, or series of assets, for use across different screens and channels to encourage response from consumers.

Search and social listening, web analytics, and trends discovered across communities such as Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube can all play a big role in understanding what content users have an appetite for and what types of content a brand can credibly provide. Data is used to work out which channels offer the best opportunity to connect consumers with content to prompt the desired response. And, of course, data must be monitored to continuously optimize content marketing programs and publishing calendars against the topics, asset types, or channels that deliver results.

Analytics and Adtech

Even as recently as a few years ago, the scope for most adtech teams was limited to thirdparty ad-serving technologies, simple behavioral targeting, and survey-based tools. Fast forward to today and the amount of available technologies are so vast and complex that the need for agencies to have dedicated in-house technology experts has become critical to keep pace and take advantage of all that is now possible. Traditional ad operations people have been the staff closest to technology and best positioned to evaluate tools of this nature, which can include the DMP, DSP, dynamic retargeting, OBA, mobile tech, rich video, media and audience verification platforms, and many, many more.

What that means is that yesterday's traffickers — once only responsible for getting campaigns live — are now today's technology experts, who need to know all the players, how to select the right partners, how to implement the technologies on behalf of client and agency teams, and even how to guide product development in many instances. Where technology experts were once isolated to a few ad ops functions, these teams are now paired with analytics and responsible for engaging with communications planning and activation teams to ensure learning is utilized and incorporated into live campaigns.

Newcast, a branded entertainment group at ZenithOptimedia, works with our data and audience solutions group to concept unique consumer experiences in ways unimagined. The audience solutions group, drawn from across accounts, includes the above stakeholders and communications planning. Working together with our clients and media and technology partners, these cross-functional teams ensure marketers gain knowledge and meaningful experience from every consumer touchpoint and ad exposure.

While there is still a home for that stellar art director/copywriter team, in this new paradigm, it's the new duo of user experience and communications planners who have become crucial to conquering the data-driven marketing landscape.

Helen Lin is senior vice president and managing director of Digital & Magazine Activation at Zenith, a ZenithOptimedia consultancy.


"The New Power Partnerships." Helen Lin, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Digital and Magazine Activation, Zenith. ANA Magazine Spotlight. April 2014.

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