A new approach to segmenting marketing and advertising agencies and suppliers

This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder of TrinityP3With his background as analytical scientist and creative problem solver, Darren brings unique insights and learnings to the marketing process. He is considered a global thought leader on agency remuneration, search and selection and relationship optimisation.

There are times when we will be contacted by either a marketer or procurement and be asked to assist with a below the line review. My immediate response is to ask them to define Below The Line (BTL) and most will say the advertising activities that are not Above The Line (ATL). Pointless really, but caused largely by the fact that the language has not kept pace with the industry. So much so that very quickly people were talking about the need to go Through The Line (TTL).

In most cases people don’t know what the LINE is that the agency or agencies are above or below. When I first moved from medical science to advertising I was fascinated that I was in the ATL creative team and the guys down the hall in the catalogue department were BTL. There was a smug superiority about being ATL.

But what should have been the death of the LINE is digital because the digital communications platform is both above, below and through all at once. In fact the best examples of digital marketing are usually best demonstrated by the people skilled in data and interactive marketing who in the old days were BTL in Direct Marketing. Take the best direct marketers, add technology understanding and competence and you have a powerful marketing tool that deals with data and digital in a highly effective way.

So the LINE has some competitors, with Paid, Earned and Owned being the segmentation from the media agencies. This is a way of segmenting the thinking and approach to channels being the channels you own as a brand (eg. Websites etc), the Earned media channels where the brand is promoted (e.g. Social media etc) and the media channels you Paid for (eg. Traditional media). While it has some use in thinking about how these channels interact and can be planned, it does not really help in the segmentation or categorisation of the agencies and suppliers required as increasingly many are managing all of these.

Then there is the distinction between Channel and Content. One being the message and the other being the delivery mechanism. It is neat and simple, but beyond segmenting media from creative, it does little to differentiate between the various media suppliers and content providers.

About three years ago we started working on more and more roster reviews, not just selecting new suppliers and agencies, but reviewing the current roster composition and structure and this led us to develop a segmentation based on the strategic marketing requirements of the brand.

It works with three simple categories of agencies / suppliers:

  1. Strategic – the one or two agencies that have the skills to contribute significantly to the strategic development of the brand
  2. Specialist – the agencies that have the specialist skills required to deliver the strategic and tactical requirements of the brand
  3. Simple – those suppliers who provide a simple or general service required to deliver the requirements

Take a look at the video where I explain the approach. The three segments can be unique to each brand because it is based on the strategic requirements of that brand.

Thinking about your strategic requirements, how do your agencies and suppliers fit into this system?

Are there some that are difficult to place. Let me know by leaving a comment here and lets see if we cannot work it out together.

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About Darren Woolley

Darren is called a Pitch Doctor, Negotiator, Problem Solver, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Strategic Marketing Management Consultants and a founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum. He is also an Ex-scientist, Ex-Creative Director and a father of three. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com
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