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Data Democratization in Marketing: New Trends in Brand-Agency Partnerships

Redefining brand/agency relationships in the age of data democratization

The future of marketing relies on not just more data, but more of us being able to utilize it. As someone who works closely with agencies every day, I’ve seen first-hand how data democratization has impacted both how agencies work and what work they do.

With the line of roles between agencies and brands becoming increasingly blurred, many brands have moved marketing and advertising roles in-house, believing that their customer data provides all the insights their internal teams need.

But this attitude risks undervaluing the broad perspective that agencies bring to the table through working with various clients on multiple campaigns. To avoid being relegated to campaign managers, leading agencies are doubling down on their data capabilities and expertise.

In the past, agencies served as gatekeepers of data, interpreting and analyzing it for their clients. This created a dependency on agencies, as brands lacked the expertise or resources to independently access and utilize data. However, with data democratization, brands are now empowered to take control of their data, enabling them to make informed decisions without relying solely on their agencies.

This shift in power is leading to a new era of partnership between brands and agencies. Rather than being mere data analysts, agencies are now becoming strategic partners, helping brands understand and leverage their data to achieve their business objectives. 

By getting hands-on with brands’ first-party data, their own historic campaign data, and exploring the wider data ecosystem, agencies can leverage this expertise to identify valuable audiences, discover their behaviors, and scale them across appropriate channels.

Brands might know their customers but, with the power of data, agencies offer knowledge of the entire consumer ecosystem.

Agencies can do the heavy-lifting for brands overwhelmed by data demands

Brands tend to have a detailed but narrow view of their customers based on what they have recorded in their CRMs, the quality of which can vary significantly depending on the touch points available to them. CPG brands, for example, can often struggle to directly acquire customer data.

Today’s data-driven agencies, on the other hand, tend to have access to and familiarity with a far broader range of data sources, technology vendors, and routes for activation. Agencies can’t afford to be too beholden to a particular solution, as they often need to adapt to those used by a client. As a result, agencies don’t just have more data on hand, they also have more up-to-date knowledge of how it can be used.

Through this knowledge, agencies can gauge a brand’s data sophistication and advise on where it can be improved by deploying their own resources or suggesting partnerships to expand their scope. End-to-end, this could involve data warehousing and analytics platforms, through to modeling and measurement, and on to media owners and channel distribution.

Agencies are not just onboarding client data but helping clients onboard it themselves through incentive strategies that maximize the volume of consenting users, such as loyalty schemes, personalized experiences, or exclusive discounts.

Data collaboration, modeling, and AI will underpin the future of brand-agency relationships

While first-party data is a strong basis for marketing strategy and customer engagement, it’s only the start when it comes to gaining a 360-degree view of current and potential customers. Agencies have access to a wide variety of enrichment data to add greater detail to customer personas, without brands having to sift through mountains of data themselves.

A key to efficient data-driven agency and brand partnerships is to avoid duplication of work. By working from a centralised, collaborative data platform that can efficiently collate and analyse data from a wide variety of internal and external sources, such duplications can be avoided.

As with every corner of the industry, AI/ML will have a tremendous impact here, not just in rapidly and accurately transforming and modeling data but also in making it more connected for brands and agencies alike.

Data visualization has been key to allowing a greater range of disciplines to leverage data, and AI will take this to the next level through generative data storytelling that can turn screens full of charts and graphs into plain language, making it easier for agencies to demonstrate value and collaborate with clients.

Audience modeling, meanwhile, means that small, high quality samples can be leveraged for scaled addressability, opening advanced targeting opportunities to businesses that might not have the first-party data assets of their competitors.

Agencies that leverage AI to bring data superpowers to more of their team will uncover new and creative ways to make data work for their brands. Data and AI might not have the allure of Mad Men’s smoke-filled brainstorming rooms, but they’re what will determine success for tomorrow’s leading agencies.

This article was written by Alison Harding, Vice President Data Solutions EMEA at Lotame.