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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

Jul 15, 2020


In our coronavirus world, more and more businesses are turning to agencies for digital advertising. But the old model of percent of ad spend has a TON of flaws. It’s misaligned with the client, it doesn’t account for creative creation, creative refreshes, platform differences, and the list goes on. With the core platforms like Facebook being commoditized left and right, there is an increasing need for agencies to communicate their unique value in the equation. In today’s episode we are diving into the broken service model of media buying as we begin to rethink it for our own companies.


Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode: 

  1. Attribution can be a distraction. Platforms like Facebook may not look like they are producing results, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Awareness has value, and you see that regardless of what attribution says.
  2. The ease of use of the digital marketing platforms means you can no longer hang your value on execution. Execution is seen as a commodity although it isn’t one. The truth is your value is on your knowledge and experience. You must educate your clients and position your value appropriately.
  3. Don’t be so broad that you’re nothing to nobody, and don’t be so specific that you are vulnerable for disruption. Specialize your agency in smart ways so you aren’t just another ____ agency..


For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:


About The Guys: 

Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran from from 2000 -2017. He is also the author of 3 books. More on Bob: 

Brad Ayres: Founder of Anthem Republic, an award-winning ad agency. Brad’s knowledge has led some of the biggest brands in the world. Originally from Detroit, Brad is an OG in the ad agency world and has the wisdom and scars to prove it. Currently that knowledge is being applied to his boutique agency. More on Brad:

Ken Ott: Co-Founder and Chief Growth Rebel of Metacake, an Ecommerce Growth Team for some of the world’s most influential brands with a mission to Grow Brands That Matter. Ken is also an author, speaker, and was nominated for an Emmy for his acting on the Metacake Youtube Channel (not really). More on Ken: 


Show Notes:

[1:27] Bob introduces today’s episode: media buying. Gives a brief overview of media buying. 

  • Prior to the late 1990’s, advertising and marketing agencies had been bundled together. Then those departments split and media buying became a separate entity. 

[3:18] Brad talks about his experience in traditional advertising. 

  • The question is: does the old way of advertising need to change, has it already changed, and is there a better model for businesses (especially a smaller or mid-sized agency)? 
  • In the past, it was hard to know what tv ads had actually attributed to direct sales. Digital marketing has changed that! True ROI is available to an extent, but time is needed to measure and read those results. 
  • There is still maintenance, but not the same as in the past. 

[7:30] Brad continues: Savvy clients will try to negotiate and “nickel-and-dime” agencies over commission costs. They want to know exactly what it is that you’re doing with that 15%, but so much of what that is used for is difficult to explain and sort of nebulous to the client. 

[11:00] Ken: “Here’s the challenge I see with buying ads and that being your service offering… I think from the outside that is seen as a commodity…”

[12:25] Brad: “I think the media buying for most clients see that as just a commodity task that isn’t creative.” 

[12:30] Ken: “The challenge is that it’s not a commodity- it’s seen as that. It presents a real challenge, because the question is how do you compete in a commodity market- you compete on price.” 

[12:47] Bob: “I’m convinced that things become a commodity when things become common and accessible…” Anyone with an internet connection can create and place a Facebook ad right now. That is a commodity.

[14:07] Ken: Digital channels are making it easier by the day for anyone to launch those ads and do those kinds of things.

  • The creative and strategy behind Facebook ads is not a commodity, so Metacake has focused on positioning themselves as being different from others that can create ads 

[15:48] Brad speaks about wrestling with this in his own agency. “What does that future look like when it comes to media buying and how should we charge the client for our time and energies for that?” 

[16:54] Bob talks about how much the purpose of advertising has changed. In the past, everybody was pretty much on the same page. “We’ve got a product to launch, create awareness, and we want people to buy the product.” 

  • But now there are awareness campaigns, branding campaigns, etc. that have created the need for specialization and strategy. 
  • The testing side of digital marketing means you can see results in real time and pivot strategically as needed. 

[18:30] Brad: “The initial strategy isn’t the heart and soul of your campaign. The heart and soul is tweaking that campaign and measuring the results and continuing to refine that campaign over time to get the best results. It’s the refining that takes time and measure and pitting two campaigns against each other, AB testing and looking at different language and looking at different audiences that are responding better. That’s really the heart and soul.” 

  • FB advertising isn’t really marketing advertising, but focus groups to get to know that audience. There is HUGE value in this. 

[20:11] Ken: “How do you, as an agency, position and create a strategy that does not rely on the nuts and bolts and de-commoditize them as much as possible.” 

[21:45] Brad: “We try to educate our clients that there is a fee that is going to be an ongoing fee that you’re going to need because it’s not just start it and let it run by itself. There's actually a lot of work that goes into it, and we don’t want to do something for a client that doesn't allow us the money or the resources to be able to do that… because we know that that’s what’s going to get the end result.”

[22:57] Ken recalls the last episode, where we talked about the idea of not having enough to create success. Knowing what you need in order to be successful is important.

[24:01] Bob summarizes Ken and Brad’s point: “If you still want to do ad buying and you’re struggling with what to do, position yourself either within a niche that you know really really well, OR become an expert in testing and deciphering for the client.” 

  • People are looking for experts! Especially now after the pandemic, they realize digital marketing is the future. 

[25:45] Brad predicts that in the future, there will be other platforms that do what Facebook does. 

[26:15] Ken talks about how many apps are making it easier than ever to step in a become an expert. They want people to be able to set up an ad and walk away, but for an agency this means building value into the work you do- the daily upkeep of digital marketing is the future!

  • You’d hire Metacake for your Facebook campaign based on 20 years of experience in ecommerce- not just to manage your Facebook budget. 
  • So often companies wind up competing in the commodity market of Facebook

[30:02] Brad asks: What are the risks of buying media for an agency and where could you eliminate the risks? 

  • Anthem has tried many models- buy the media for the client and take a percentage of that. These charges would be charged on a credit card. Sometimes clients wind up not paying and you’re stuck with a large monthly bill on their behalf. 
  • Anthem is moving away from this model

[35:07] Bob speaks about how that mindset change is creating need for CRO experts, people who can increase conversion rates by 2%, 10%.... They’re looking for specialists and agencies who can get them across that finish line. 

  • Today it’s about so much more than just media buying “You’re providing a system architecture of how you take their product from point A to point B.

[37:22] Brad speaks about “programmatic marketing.” 

[37:45] Ken talks about how Metacake is moving away from the traditional media buying model. 

  • “We offer coaching, ads coaching in different platforms… we’ll give some feedback and oversight…” This equips companies the way that they want to be equipped, instead of forcing them into a model that doesn’t fit. 

[39:47] Brad asks for some insight into what Ken charges initially and what is covered in that cost. There is so much work in the forefront for many companies that has to be done, branding-wise. So that process is built in 100%

[43:11] Brad: You can drive a ton of people down a specific funnel, but if the infrastructure isn’t set up it’s like the catcher having a hole in his glove. There are things that need to be resolved and fixed… “Restructuring, redoing their customer journey, refining their ecom platform because it’s confusing.” 

  • Hotjar- models for conversion in real time

[45:10] Ken speaks about how clients will sometimes step into the process and confuse the optimization process- educating away from this tendency is valuable. 

[46:38] Brad speaks about how many campaigns are based on just getting people to a website or a landing page, but not taking actual action. Knowing the cost of true customer acquisition is important- many clients would not know this because their agency didn’t tell them it was important. 

[48:05] Ken brings up another point of education: Not every campaign is meant to sell things, some are just focused on awareness. 

[50:46] Brad talks about the difference between different ads and how important it is to let your clients know what it is that they need and the real work that is involved. 

[51:32] Bob: “That’s the value that agencies should be bringing- Depending on what your budget is, what is the correct strategy to help you be successful?” 

[52:01] Ken stresses the importance of educating potential clients of what they actually need to be successful. “What are you trying to do? What stage are you at and what are some of the things around your business…. What budget do you have and what are your expectations?” 

  • “You have to be able to have the experience and the knowledge on the business side and marketing side and all that goes along to create a strategy and assess those things and really coach somebody…”