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360i CEO Presents Vision for Agency of the Future at IAB Leadership Summit

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UPDATE: We’ve updated this interview with the full video of 360i CEO Bryan Wiener’s speech at the 2010 IAB Annual Leadership Summit. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

The following Q&A reveals some of the key themes addressed in his keynote. Join the conversation by leaving your comments below or by tweeting us @360i or @bwiener.

1. You’ve proposed that agencies are not only necessary for the future, but that we’re actually on the cusp of a golden age for agencies. What’s the importance of the agency in the future of brand marketing?

There is a tremendous opportunity for agencies to increase the value they provide to marketers, but this comes with recognizing the opportunities and seizing them. With consumers in control like never before and media fragmentation proliferating, brands need strategic partners who can help them drive marketing innovation and stay ahead of changing consumer behaviors. Marketers need agencies to step up and be change agents.

A huge part of this means that most agencies, especially the traditional holding company agencies, will need to reorganize themselves to be more aligned with consumer behavior and marketer needs, which are increasingly digital in nature. Reorganizing for our golden age will be tough, but I believe it’s critical for the entire marketing ecosystem.

The agency of the future should deliver innovative strategic thinking that’s not driven by or beholden to any specific tactics or platforms.

2. What’s changed in the marketing landscape that necessitates an agency of the future versus the agency of the present?

There are really three key implications of this change in consumer behavior that impact the future of marketing and how agencies need to adapt.

For one, thanks to Google and Facebook and Twitter, individuals have more power over shaping brand perceptions than ever before. And it’s not just for a brief moment. None of us can afford to forget that when consumers communicate online, they’re leaving a permanent digital record for others to see. Consumers are not just influencing short-term opinions about brands. They are affecting brand reputations long-term. Marketers and their agencies need to establish relationships with consumers where they are spending their time. This means building the foundations of your brand footprint in search and social because that’s where consumers are creating and consuming content about brands and their competition the most.

The second implication I see is that growing brand strength now means a long term commitment to relationship building – like a marriage. The wedding is not the end game. If the core of a brand’s value is the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose one brand over the alternatives, then establishing an emotional bond and building long-term relationships to drive brand loyalty are critical for success. Digital is the key that allows for that – a direct, unadulterated relationship between consumer and brand – NOT a cheap transactional one-night-stand. So any agency that wants to add strategic value to marketers needs be an expert and fostering relationships between brands and consumers across all channels.

Finally, the agency of the future needs the marketer of the future. Marketers need to play a major role in dictating the pace of change. Digital engages consumers throughout the marketing funnel, simultaneously in real time, which requires brands and agencies to adapt. The old, siloed model of advertising, promotion, sales, customer service and IT just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Put simply, if marketers really want to rapidly and radically impact change in the agency ecosystem, it starts with how they allocate dollars. If you buy into the first two implications, it changes the way you fund your marketing efforts and organize around it.

3. What’s the way forward – what do agencies need and how do they need to be aligned in order to be more relevant and more valuable strategic partners to marketers? How do we as an industry work to reach the golden age?

Frankly, no one model will likely be perfect for every marketer. I believe the prototype for the agency of the future is one that is responsible for both brand planning and the core elements of earned, paid and owned media executions. This agency shouldn’t come from a broadcast-centric background and it should have digital in the center, in its bones — because that’s where consumers increasingly are.  But the agency of the future would not be biased toward digital, either. Ultimately, it will have traditional media planning and buying capabilities as a core service offering but this shouldn’t be the driver of the agency’s strategic thinking.

As agencies we should be most focused on building a model that can provide the most value to a variety of marketers. To that end, I think there’s a core group of capabilities that are indispensable regardless of the model.

  1. Every agency needs to excel at using the Internet as a complement to traditional research tools to mine the consumer insights that inform brand strategy and fuel continuous improvement of marketing programs. This is very different than the typical pre and post campaign insights and analytics and we’re done approach.
  2. Every agency also needs to have digital expertise in their DNA, with search, social and mobility — three things that have completely transformed consumer behavior — as the three key legs of the stool.
  3. Finally, agencies must be platform and tactic agnostic and marketers need to give us the freedom to be. Mobile, online, TV, print — who cares? It’s about driving brand engagement and achieving the marketer’s core objectives, using the platforms and tactics that will best help us get there.

What do you think the agency of the future holds? Join the conversation and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.