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"The focus on collaboration is also transcending intra-company workflows and becoming increasingly common in the way forward-thinking brands and agencies are working together."

Modern Marketers

Clients Leave Themselves Room for Growth on Innovation Front

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Innovation Front

Clients-side respondents in this year’s study were slightly more sober in their analysis of how innovative their digital initiatives are in 2015. This is likely a symptom of the growing complexity marketers are facing on all fronts. It’s harder to be confident that you’re creating groundbreaking work when the marketing and technology landscape is relentlessly shifting beneath your feet.

Additionally, many client respondents indicated their organizations are decidedly conservative, and will wait for technology trends to mature before adopting them.

And finally, some respondents pointed to a failure of vision and sophistication on the part of management to drive digital innovation within their organizations.

The verbatim comments from survey respondents underscore these realities.

“We are always learning, but are not cutting edge yet.”
“We try a lot of new things, but I wouldn’t say we’re bleeding edge.”
“We are constantly working to improve processes and generate new ideas.”
“We are agile in our approach, trying our best to stay on top of all the latest marketing trends and emerging technology.”
“We follow the market – when a practice is established we adopt it.”
“We adopt new technologies but only after they have been on the market a while and fully tested.” “Management are luddites.”
“We could do more, but don’t have the full support from leadership.”
“A lack of creative leadership at the VP level frustrates our efforts.”

Where Clients Say They Are on the Learning Curve

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Learning Curve

Defining our terms:

  • Emergent Forms of Digital Interaction (ex. augmented reality, virtual reality, IoT)
  • Place-Based Digital Experiences (ex. architectural digital media, place-based mobile technologies, interactive installations, projection mapping, social media, and experiential technologies)
  • User Experience (research and testing)
  • ROI Analysis (measuring ROI on digital initiatives)
  • Innovative Engagement (engaging with agency partners in innovative and highly collaborative ways such as agile and co-development of new IP)
  • Data Use (use of data to drive digital marketing effectiveness)

The two primary areas where client organizations report making great strides over the past year are user experience and the use of data to drive digital marketing effectiveness. These two categories were the only areas where a greater percentage of respondents indicated that they are either “state of the art” or “ahead of the curve” versus being “behind the times” or “hopeless.” Despite the trend toward insourcing on the client side, there are clearly gaps in expertise within client organizations across all of the above categories that provide excellent business opportunities for agencies, production companies and consultancies to step in and fill.

Three in Four Marketers Say Early Adopter Status Key to their Brand Position

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Early Adopters

Nearly 75% (up from 69.5% in 2014) of clients believe that being seen as an early adopter is key or important to their brand position. Even for non-tech brands, being seen as having your finger “on the pulse” adds brand value.

In fact, “Expertise in Emerging Trends & Opportunities” ranked as the top priority for clients when asked what agency skillsets were most valuable to them – up two spots from last year’s survey and even surpassing marketing creativity. And unlike last year’s study, agency perceptions of what’s most important to clients were in direct alignment. Agencies also ranked emerging trends as the top priority for clients in this year’s study. See the “What Clients Want” infographic here.

Identifying and evaluating trends for use by clients has emerged as a significant revenue opportunity for companies in our industry. Agencies are starting to take notice. In 2015, just under one in three agency respondents (31.9%) say they are now providing direct training and mentoring to client staff on emerging technology as one of their paid service offerings.

Key Insight:

While 2 in 5 clients affirmed that their company’s organizational structure facilitates innovation, many marketers still believe they have a ways to go before their processes are truly innovative and experimental.

Marketers Concede Room for Growth

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Marketers Concede Room for Growth

Clients on Collaboration

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Clients on collaboration

Marketers gave themselves high marks on their ability to collaborate, interacting continuously across teams and disciplines.

In her piece “Show Your Underwear: A Case for Transparent Collaboration,” Emily Wengert of SoDA Member Company Huge makes a compelling argument for more open, transparent collaboration with clients in order to test assumptions and put requirements in context throughout the creation process.

Level of Complexity Anticipated in 2015 - 2020

Key Insight:

Three out of every four marketers believe the level of complexity they will face over the next five years will be high or very high.

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Level of Complexity

74% of all client-side respondents expect the level of complexity faced by marketing professionals will be “high” or “very high” over the next 5 years. Interestingly, the percentage of C-Level client respondents who thought the level of complexity would be “high” or “very high” was marginally lower (67%). While still a significant response, the finding does suggest that many executives in the C-Suite may be failing to grasp the growing level of complexity on the horizon.

Additionally, as the graph below underscores, less than one in three marketers feel prepared to handle that growing complexity, providing yet another opportunity for forward-thinking agencies and consultancies. Those agency partners who are able to help brands craft a progressive and agile strategic approach that can adapt to a marketing and technology landscape which is relentlessly shifting beneath their feet are well positioned for success. Easier said than done, without a doubt.

Key Insight:

Less than one in three feel especially prepared to handle the growing complexity.*

Are You Prepared to Handle It?

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Prepared to handle it