This is a follow-up from Marketing and Technology part 1.
Here we start the dive into my vision of how to bring technology into the project process at an Ad Agency. As we start our dive, I want to set some background assumptions / observations. The biggest shifts over the past 5 years are on both the client side as well as the agency side, and that is, in marketing, technology is no longer just a function of production. It used to be that for a large organization (e.g. the client), the marketing business function operated in a largely external silo. Some of their initiatives were supported by corporate IT, but largely they were given their technology toys and told to go away. Corporate IT is focused on the operational aspects of keeping the company moving, less so in the external aspects of selling products. Integrated projects like CRM and customer service were hamstrung by slow-moving IT infrastructure and differing mindsets on how to support the directives from a technology perspective. This has given rise to the concept of the “Chief Marketing Technologist” well described by Scott Brinker. Marketing can no longer be considered external to the organization’s IT infrastructure as more and more their digital campaigns have a larger and larger impact on company operations. Think of something as simple as QR codes on products (requires changes to manufacturing, possibly connections to customer service, etc. in addition to the mobile websites). The purpose of technology in marketing is to enable effective communication. Effective communication is multi-directional though, brand to consumer, consumer to consumer and consumer to brand. Effective marketing campaigns solve a communication challenge in one of those spaces and is enabled by technology.
So, we’re now at a place where effective campaigns must include technology from the beginning or be doomed to failure. Successful campaigns bring someone familiar with technology in at the beginning to inform the creative vision, communicate implementation challenges to account and client teams and to own the execution of the idea. Check with your CIO to find out how many IT projects have failed because the person responsible for the execution of the project was not part of the stakeholder group creating the idea. That person needs to speak both languages and play the communication bridge between the business needs of the organization and the technology constraints of the environment. They are an advocate of sane technology practices and platform agnostic.
Going back to the process framework described in Marketing and Technology part 1, we begin with the Discover phase. This is the time between getting the RFP or the initial project brief outlining the communication challenge that needs to be addressed and creating the creative brief that will inform the Define stage. This is where technology begins their process of understanding the problem which is a major change to how things have been done previously. Technology has a number of responsibilities that inform later decisions and can affect the entire project process. From a high-level, technology needs to begin both the operational and strategic processes. They need to begin the project on-boarding process, do a technology audit of the final production environment and work with the Production, Account, Planning & Creative teams on exploring possible to solutions to the communication challenge. All of this informs the creative brief and provides a solid structure for the creative teams to dig into some of the more specific aspects of a campaign.
The project on-boarding process should pretty standard for any agency that has done a lot of development work. It’s setting up the appropriate development space, SVN repositories, web & application servers, etc. The technology environment audit is the critical portion here. This is where the initial contact is made with the Corporate IT team, hopefully with the help of a “technology liaison” of some sort on the business side. If you’re lucky, there is a person on the marketing team that is the technical interface to the IT side. If not, congratulations, you just became that person. The business side will provide the approval, you’re going to have to translate that into instructions for the IT side which means you need to gather all of their development guidelines, marketing guidelines, communication guidelines, etc. You’ll need to learn how they integrate with 3rd parties for development, gain access to their development space and setup as positive and open a communication channel and working relationship as you can, it will be critical for later. Some things to think about here are, processes and timelines for pushing site updates, how do new sites go up, etc. These are just the initial steps, you need enough information to inform your research into possible solutions. Once you have your creative brief and strategic proposal, you’ll return to them with more specifics, hence the open communication channel. Ideally, you want to get the corporate IT team on your side, your goal is successful execution of the project which needs IT.
Once you have enough information to understand the high-level constraints, you’ll start working with the Production, Account, Planning & Creative teams on exploring possible to solutions. This includes understanding the business goals for the project and if they can be met with some kind of combination of existing technologies or if new ones will need to be developed / implemented. Here are just a few of the many questions to be considered at this stage (I’m sure you can come up with many more):
- Is this a forward-thinking client or a catch-up / status quo project?
- How widespread are the technologies? Are there new back-end approaches / developments to consider?
- e.g. more widespread use of ooVoo among teenagers over Skype, near-field communications, geolocation, etc.?
- What are the *graphics of the target markets? Are we meeting multiple, disparate demographics in varied geographies
- e.g. mobile phone use in Japan for payments vs none in South America?
- Are the solutions creative, innovative, boundary pushing, likely to bring awards? Do they meet the client’s personality / risk-tolerance?
This is not a deep dive, but a surface skim to find the direction the solution lies in. It’s a high-level validation of what’s possible. You should be discipline and technology agnostic as much as possible given the high-level technology constraints from the client. You should look primarily towards understanding and defining the communication problem the brand is having. Technology’s role here should be suggesting new and innovative ways to solve the communication problem, this is a team effort supported by technology. Technology should primarily be facilitating innovative ways to achieve the goals rather than responsible for the complete ideation of a solution.
From this comes the Strategic Proposal where Technology again works with Production, Account, Planning and Creative Teams to document findings and proposed plan. This include examples of how technologies are currently being used in the way we’re describing or a one line description of the concept. Something like “it’s spin.com meets deviantart.com” or “ustream.tv meets rememberthemilk.com”.
Out of all of this process, the technology group is responsible for several deliverables. These are important not only for the success of this proje
ct, but also for the success of projects that start at other places. Not every project will go through all 5 phases, nor should they. However, there are aspects of each phase that must be considered. In particular, all of these come together to provide a comprehensive understanding of technology as it relates to this particular project.
- Technology environment audit
- Client Project on-boarding
- Current knowledge base of the technology environment updated / validated
- Client guidelines, review processes, etc.
- Technology People Contact info + client roles & responsibilities
- Environmental / process / technology constraints
- Development & Deployment processes
- How to access the client’s environment
It’s a lot to go through and illustrates why the role of technology has changed in marketing. It can no longer only be brought in once something needs to be built, it needs a seat at the table from the beginning. The big key to keeping that seat is to provide value and at this stage it’s two kinds of value. Doing the initial discovery that will enable the effective execution of the project (the operational aspects) and helping the creative, planning and strategy teams shine by keeping them up to date on new and emerging technologies (the strategic aspects). It can be hard to earn that seat and requires a different approach to thinking about technology than has been prevalent in the past. I hope that with these posts, we can open up the conversation and have everyone begin to understand how the different aspects come together. What would be amazing is if each of the business units involved in these projects (Planning, Creative, Account, Production, IA / UX / UI, Strategy) had their own definitions of what they do in each of the stages. An open process and conversation like that can help the industry move along and evolve to the next stage.
I hope this helps, please leave me comments if you have any thoughts, would like clarification on something, more details or want to provide some constructive criticism. It’s only a conversation if there is some back and forth.
– Marketing technology is about creative productions as part of the overall operational architecture by which marketers run their organizations and build relationships with customers, prospects, partners, vendors, collaborators… Creative technology projects are a subset of this new marketing technology universe. But there’s a need for a broader management vision that synthesizes such creative technology with overall social media marketing, search marketing, web site and post-click marketing, email marketing, marketing automation, cross-channel management, marketing analytics, marketing resource management, and so on.
A Chief Marketing Technologist requires a solid understanding of Marketing Principles and what technology’s role is within them. They can’t learn all technologies out there so they need to be able to very quickly understand how new technologies work and how they can best be applied to marketing situations. They need to be very familiar with how the agency operates and how clients use technology to meet their communication challenges. In a traditional organization they would sit under CMO. In agencies sits next to CCO.
– Randall Noval