Your agency is intimately familiar with process of the developing and executing a marketing campaign. Building and planning strategies, creating assets—for every step of the campaign—from start to finish. Should your agency take care of marketing and campaign analytics reporting, too?
Well, it depends.
Specifically, it depends on four big-picture factors that you need to be able to answer honestly and, with the input of your agency, determine if it sounds like an idea worth considering. In this article, we make the controversial case that ad agencies are usually the most qualified group of stakeholders to report marketing and campaign data analytics.
Controversial? Well, there’s an obvious conflict of interest, and we hear it all the time from marketing organizations: That agencies are the least qualified partner to report analytics because they’re essentially evaluating their own work and might report results that are skewed or positioned just so to make the agency look better.
We’re not blind to that, but consider this: Agencies are as close or closer than clients to the development and execution of strategy related to every asset within the campaign. Agencies know why each asset was created, the underlying assumptions that existed as strategies were developed, plans were executed, targets were developed and so on. In essence, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that’s more qualified, with a greater level of understanding to provide accurate analytics.
But not all agencies are the same. To that end, we’ve outlined four conditions that should be your holy quaternity and deal-breakers – situations that must be established, instituted and working well in order for you to trust and empower your agency to evaluate their own work without bias or fear that they’ll fudge reporting on a campaign that may have missed the mark.
1. The relationship between the client and the agency
As we’ve stated, there are many benefits to having the agency that executed the campaign evaluate the results. But it’s not for everyone. You need to have a relationship, built on a strong foundation of trust and honesty, between those at the top of your organization and your agency. Without it, an agency can fall into a trap of justifying their performance. If media is performing well, then media might get more budget, which could mean more billable hours and higher commissions. If media isn’t performing well, that doesn’t generally happen.
It’s important to establish a tone to recognize the value and significance for agency ownership of analytics and reporting – value in learning, and then applying that information to the larger strategy and creative execution. If, instead, the expectation is to never fail, it sets a very different tone. Conversely, the intention here is not to imply that agencies can just fail all the time as long as they’re honest about reporting on it. But there should be some level of established trust between agency and CMO so learning and adjusting can take place effectively.
2. Access to information
You can’t cut an agency off from access to information or access to data. There needs to be complete, full-on sharing so the agency is able to get the broadest perspective and do a good, thorough job looking for insights within analytics and data.
However, in order to trust an agency to evaluate their own performance (this notion ties back to our first point), you have to trust them! To understand the value of marketing and the impact it’s having, a good analytics team is going to want to understand how other factors in the business are impacting execution. Some stores may benefit where others may not, and being able to understand that is important.
If you haven’t done this before, an agency that asks for pricing data for the last three years, for example, could seem weird. But as long as you have an established relationship with the agency, they should be able to help you understand how they’re going to be using that data and why it’s important. If your agency can’t explain the rationale for this kind of request, that alone is a red flag.
3. Leveraging marketing analytics to understand things that are impacting marketing
In order for an agency to have a successful run at analyzing marketing, it’s critical to not stick your nose where you shouldn’t. For example, we’ve talked about operations and the impact of operations, sales data from the last three years, might have on business. But it would be wise to stop short of turning into an operations expert and saying all the things you should change from a historical sales standpoint.
While you may have access to that data, and you may dig into it a little bit in search of a bigger insight, your agency’s goal is not to make pricing strategy recommendations without being asked to do so beforehand. You don’t want to be looked at as pointing fingers at areas that fall well beyond the purview marketing. That’s a bad spot to be in as an agency.
4. Understanding the capabilities of analytics within the analytics team within the agency
Capabilities are huge because the very definition of analytics is different from one agency to the next. There are a lot of agencies where glorified media reporting is their data science analytics, but at a place like Callahan, that’s not the case.
For example, if your agency is just talking about impressions and clicks and spend, they may not be the right partner for all your reporting and analytics needs. In this kind of case, an external partner or solution would be a good fit. To be a truly effective partner, your agency should be able to understand and find insights into your business—what’s driving business, how marketing is impacting it and what both areas are trying to do in unison.
A strong agency partner that owns all of its analytics and reporting capabilities needs to be a good fit in all four of these areas. If any of these four give you pause or concern, you need to decide if these deal breakers can be solved for, or if an external partner or solution may be a better fit. If you can build a strong foundation of trust and honesty, then an agency-owned analytics system is the best possible option to get the most out of your marketing and media plan executions.