The Magic Box

On from Analytics Culture, Web Analytics

Am I too stubborn?

Recently I had lunch with a client and another consultant who’s there to help him choose a new Internet agency. Most probably, that agency will be the digital arm (or sub-contractor) of a traditional advertising one. The conversation focused for a while on my role, and what type of guidelines would I propose, so that early on in the RFP agencies would know where Web Analytics stood in the general picture.

The client in question is an agro-business lobby, the kind advertising agencies love, you know, those clients who spend millions on “branding”. I give them credit, however, for having developed in the past year a strong measurement culture when it comes to their Web investments. Not that it has percolated throughout the whole organization yet, but the Internet people have been asking very hard questions to their agencies about the benefits of all those online stunts. In one occasion, I was asked to analyze several months worth of data from a Web site that had been through two phases. You know, your typical full Flash concepts. The news was generally bad. Was not really worth all that money. The meeting with the ad agency was quite tensed; nobody shook my hand when I left.

Back to that conversation: we were wondering to what extent an agency should be subject to precise success measures. It was important to give them all the leeway they needed, (“Isn’t brand recall increase a good thing?”), etc. Wouldn’t being too strict with analytics neuter agencies creativity?

Would it? What is wrong with asking measurable results? Are we analysts killers of great concepts? Can’t a good idea be accountable to the business?

We did bring up the risk of the agency becoming too passive, too “go-fer”, forcing my client to basically play project manager all the time. I said at one point that I obviously respected the creative geniuses at ad agencies, that they were the best at what they did. However, I could not equate creativity with freedom to do anything.

Can’t creativity bloom with constraints? Isn’t architecture art + budget + gravity?

I believe Web analytics can, and should, establish the framework within which agencies can demonstrate their great creativity. It would actually be an even bigger demonstration of their abilities. A box, full of their magic.

I think many agencies still need to learn the analytics language, to evolve amidst new gravitational fields.

And there’s a right to be wrong we should not forget. An analytical culture is not a punishing culture, but a learning one. This means rewarding mistakes when they spawn great insights.

Ad agencies will need to understand the new grammar, and still write great poetry.


Tags: , creativity, , Issac+Newton

4 responses to “The Magic Box

  1. The agency relationship with many companies is flawed, IMHO, Jacques.

    The client pays them huge fees to be ‘creative’ without tying their measures of success to the business goals. Clients need to understand that most ad agencies are primarily motivated to win awards. And The criteria for those awards is cleverness, not business results.

    We’ve had good results with our clients by producing a continuously updated Website Playbook, which is a learning compendium of all the Conversion Rate Optimization tests we’ve run on their site. The client ensures the agency has the latest copy of our Playbook to define the constraints they must work within.

    So, we define the wireframe and evolving ‘best practices’ for their particular situation and the agency is free to apply the latest campaign messaging to the pages.

    Good post!

    Chris Goward

  2. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your comment! Well, I can’t say I don’t agree with you! I like the way you guys are doing things. Here, I see more and more agencies that tell clients they will measure everything (almost always with Google Analytics, since it’s free and easy to implement), but it always turn out they don’t have a clue about Web Analytics, and posses no analytical culture.

  3. True, Jacques. It’s easy for agencies to talk about measurement and then forget about it once they engage.

    The best question to ask yourself is how an agency is how they evaluate success. Look at whether their case studies talk about measurable conversion rate lift (with controlled experiments).

    Keep up the good work.


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