The marketing and advertising world is transforming fast, and agencies have realized that they need to adapt. Here is how Facebook is supporting them on this journey.
For the past few years, marketing has been disrupted in ways never seen before; rapid technological progress, the evolution of the notion of “brand” itself, and the rise of performance media and creative, are coming together to drive the transformation of the industry. In order to navigate this increasingly complex landscape, agencies have started to transform too, strengthening their positioning as strategic advisors to their clients, enhancing their tech capabilities and skillset, and offering new products and services.
As a matter of fact, the Covid-19 crisis and the new set of challenges it has presented have compounded the urgency of such a move and highlighted the need for agencies – both creative and media – to accelerate their transformation on two key strategic fronts, as explains Leen Fakhreddin, Head of Creative Agencies at Facebook MENA.
The first one is their value proposition. “It has only been in the last five years that the agency business has been impacted by digital, as more advertising spend shifts from traditional channels to digital and as clients’ demands compel agencies to pivot. The current crisis has accelerated this shift; we are seeing more clients move from offline to online to cope with store closures, particularly in retail,” Fakhreddin says. This trend presents, in fact, an opportunity for agencies, because “clients need agencies to curate this incredibly vibrant and confusing market on their behalf,” she explains. Yet, “Only the fastest and most nimble will win. Advertisers will not sit around and wait for their agencies to play catch-up; they will look elsewhere for agile solutions,” to sustain their business she says.
The second critical dimension under pressure is talent acquisition and retention. Fakhreddin continues, “The war for talent is already tough and will only get tougher. Agencies will not only need to compete with one another to attract the best and brightest creative talent, but also to woo the best marketing quants and techies.” What’s more, “To fill these positions, they are sometimes battling the advertisers they’re trying to serve, who are building in-house capabilities as well” she adds.
That’s not to say that the future is all gloom and doom for agencies. “I am against the notion that agencies will become less relevant in the digital transformations’ era. Agencies are committed to evolving,” says Fakhreddin. But “To actively play the role of the curator and effectively source solutions to clients outside of their traditional scope of work, agencies have to seek opportunities to collaborate with specialized partners and stakeholders in the supply chain against a fee,” she explains, noting that “The alternative is to build the capabilities in house, which is difficult to scale at a fast enough pace given how fast the market and its trends are changing.”
Getting support from the right partner
In these challenging times, Facebook can offer consequential support on several fronts. As Yasser Noueiry, Head of Media Agencies at Facebook MENA, says, “Now, more than ever, we believe that agencies should capitalize on partnerships to create new opportunities for their clients.”
Noueiry goes on to explain that, “At Facebook MENA, we are working closely with the big agency groups on an evolution model hinging on three growth levers:
- Servicing a new breed of clients such as MSMEs and digital natives to unlock new revenue pockets. The MENA region is home to more than 40 million MSMEs, 75% of which are based in North Africa and Iraq and present agencies with an untapped opportunity to unlock new budgets.
- Enabling the digitization of existing clients through advanced tech solutions and partnerships with Facebook Marketing Partners. The low penetration rate of e-commerce in MENA, at around 4%, leaves plenty of room for growth in this arena.
- Up-skilling regional talent which allows both agencies and their clients to become experts in Facebook solutions and digital marketing.”
Now more than ever, agencies need to embrace change. As Noueiry says, “The crisis we are experiencing has forced clients to move away from traditional digital and to step into a new transformation era, driven by performance, data, and measurement. We are on this journey together to shape the digital ecosystem in MENA and offer growth opportunities to our strategic partners.”