What role will AI play in helping marketers choose the best agency partners?

19 Jun 2023

AI has been predicted, with a high degree of confidence by some, to precipitate and accelerate the inevitability of redundancy across multiple business categories and sectors, so why not pitch consultancy as well?

It takes someone very brave or very stupid or very rich to not consider the impact of AI on what we do. But I don’t think my colleagues and I need to be brushing up our CVs and looking for a change in career just yet.  

For while AI may be able to replicate the superficial scraping about agencies that any Google search can uncover, it does not have the capability to navigate and understand relationships, to identify cultural chemistry or, equally importantly, a lack of it.

Nor does it know about the friction between an agency CEO and their ECD.

Or that the joint CSOs currently in role are soon to be replaced by a single CSO, and not necessarily one of the joint incumbents!

This is the point about what we do at AAR. We are trusted advisors who consult to marketers and agency leaders across a wide variety of the marketing, communications, and business challenges that they are trying to address.

Much of this advice is based on evidence, case studies and the gathering of hygienic information and data, and this may well be undertaken with greater efficiency by AI. But the human nature of selecting an agency partner is too important to marketers and too nuanced a role for AI to successfully replicate what our consultants do, day in day out, on behalf of the brands and agencies we support.

Can AI identify that the issue is not an underperforming incumbent agency, but a way of working between the brand and agency teams that’s not set up for success?

Will it identify that the marketing team’s new requirement can be served best by the incumbent agency which, if given the opportunity, will prove to be the right choice of partner rather than going to the open market?  

Or will it be able to accurately factor in the importance of chemistry between the marketing and agency teams, or the lack of it? In a market full of choice, when there’s no chemistry, the CMO and their team will not be persuaded to consider the agency further, regardless of their apparent suitability.

AI will be adopted more readily by pitch consultants at the fact-gathering end of the research spectrum, given the amount of published data and information that already exists. This will create more time to deliver the insight-driven consultancy that is more highly valued by CMOs, their teams and procurement colleagues.

However, as our own research shows, pitch consultancy is not a long-term scale business, with the overall volume of opportunities trending in negative growth, as is the way of describing what used to be called a decline!

In anticipation and response, AAR has developed new business practices and revenue streams; our Design practice supports marketers to design and build the right marketing ecosystems and our Drive practice focuses on driving high performing partnerships between brands and their agency partners.

More recently we have launched an E-Learning practice, the demand for which is evident and will further broaden our portfolio of services.

No doubt sometime soon we’ll hear of instances in which a marketer has selected an agency partner with the primary, if not exclusive, support of Chat GPT or other AI technology. Indeed, the relationship may last long enough for decent work to be delivered by the appointed agency.

But people buy people, and the nuanced nature and subtleties that take place when selecting an agency team to develop a long-term partnership cannot be replaced by an algorithm. Yet.

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Paul Phillips


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