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Matt Wright, Managing Director – Global Agency
Matt Wright, Managing Director – Global Agency 24 June 2020

Why I’ve banned the term ‘added value’

The creation of value can’t be an optional extra when agencies deal with brands – value is the purpose of any agency service

Matt Wright, Managing Director – Global Agency
Matt Wright, Managing Director – Global Agency 24 June 2020

The creation of value can’t be an optional extra when agencies deal with brands – value is the purpose of any agency service

In the context of marketing agencies, I have a big problem with the term ‘added value’.

So much so that I’ve banned it at Indicia Worldwide. Never again do I want to see it in a client pitch, proposal or uttered in boardrooms or planning sessions.

Why? Because using it says much more about the agency than it does about the client. It’s become self-serving rather than client- or brand-serving.

Too often, ‘how can we add value?’ is a euphemism for ‘how can we milk this client for more?’.

The role of your agencies

Fundamentally, it suggests that we don’t add value in the first place. It frames the BAU of agency service as nothing more than an exercise in getting away with it; keeping things ticking over and occasionally working on an upselling pitch.

The approach of providing a passable BAU with the occasional “just one more thing” isn’t viable in today’s marketing landscape.

It’s not working for brands.

Why? Because the marketer’s job has never been harder. There is a ruthless focus on efficiency, which is in itself a euphemism for spending less money. Amid these pressures on budget, there’s an ever-evolving and complex channel and technology landscape to navigate.

The agency roster then presents a challenge. Most brands now have an agency for just about everything. Strategy, social, OOH, design, branding, PR, analytics, CRM, creative. The list goes on.

The marketer’s job is to somehow manage this chaos, and cross fingers that each agency is on point. They are horribly time-poor.

Agencies need to think about how they inherently unlock value from the start of the relationship with their client.

Value can’t be the icing on the overpriced, off-the-shelf, going stale cake. It must be baked into the batter.

The new value litmus test

That’s why we’ve framed the promise we make to clients around creating new value – we believe our core purpose is to unlock incremental growth, not just provide a functional service.

Our mantra has become an on-the-fly test of our activity – is what we’re proposing creating new value or treading water? Applying the test drives up our aspiration and nurtures far better relationships with our clients.

This is especially important when marketing needs are so different from brand to brand. Some need production support in house, others have creativity in spades but no workable data. Asset generation, campaign management, ideas – each team has a different skills gap.

For example, one of our core areas of creating new value is in operational excellence – helping marketing teams to create a marketing machine that has the creation of new value built in. Rationalising print spending and streamlining production operations are ways of creating sustained new value straight off the bat.

These services are also massive cost savers. But we’re careful not to conflate value with cost saving. Because it’s not just about operations. Creating new value is a question of working with two levers – efficiency and effectiveness. It’s not just about saving costs – it’s about driving performance, too. That’s what drives that incremental business growth that marketing should bring.

After all, investing in data, insight and creative is creating new value for the business. Or at least that’s the idea.

In an omnichannel marketing environment, where consumers are targeted with the right message at the right time in the right channel, efficiency and effectiveness merge into one. Being efficient IS being effective. You’re spending less to perform better.

That’s the dream, but marketers have a hard time achieving it. For example, I hear countless client stories where they have spent millions on huge marketing tech stacks, only to find that they aren’t able to orchestrate it to create value from it.

They’re busy managing chaos.

Adding value on top of chaos is of little use. It just adds more chaos to the marketer’s manic day-to-day. Our focus is on creating new value for our clients. We want to make their jobs easier and more rewarding, and get them the results they need.

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