Should creative and media be the same for effective performance marketing?

Should creative and media be the same for effective performance marketing?

According to EMR, the Indian digital marketing market – including e-mail marketing, SEO, blogging and podcasting, social media, mobile marketing, influencer marketing, digital OOH, affiliate marketing and more – touched approximately $4.5 billion in 2022. By 2028, this number is expected to cross $24.1 billion. It follows that a medium that is increasingly attracting advertising and marketing money, will see a greater quest for RoI.

By definition, performance marketing is a subset of online marketing where affiliates and marketing service providers are paid on the basis of outcomes. There are calls for better alignment between the medium and the message(s), with the argument that a unified creative and media agency would help performance marketing deliver better. The ‘unified agency for better results’ debate has been on since the bifurcation of media and creative agencies. It perhaps makes a better case in performance – or does it? 

When measuring results, can digital take credit for all that has  gone into the consumer’s mind prior to his response on the medium? Should ‘Performance Marketing’ be viewed today across the board, or just for digital?

Karthi Marshan
Karthi Marshan

Karthi Marshan, Advisor, Kotak Mahindra Bank, says that there is no doubt that all marketing must be measured, and stand accountable. And he finds the distinction of digital rather pointless.

“Digital is an enabler, a channel, nothing more. Frequently, it may just be the last touchpoint for the consumer, leading to false attribution metrics. I totally believe that all marketing efforts must be held accountable in a consolidated manner,” he observes. 

Should the creative and media agency ideally be the same for effective performance marketing?

“Some of us are old enough to remember a thing called sales promotion advertising. Only some brands indulged, only some of the time, to move idle inventory, or to acquire non users via discounts. This used to get a small portion of media budgets, and the creative had poor cut through, typically being a price off announcement at best.  Today, the same thing is strutting around under the garb of being ‘performance marketing’,” says Marshan. 

“Creatives are still tacky, conversions are largely happening on the back of deals, discounts, freebies et al. This essentially buys transactions, or trials, at best. Therefore, the issue, to my mind, isn’t so much about media and creative agencies needing to be aligned (of course they do) but more about marketers being clear about what they are spending money for in the first place. It has become the tail that’s wagging the dog,” he adds. 

Sabyasachi Mitter
Sabyasachi Mitter

According to Sabyasachi Mitter, Founder and Managing Director at Fulcro, ‘in an ideal world’ having a single agency taking care of creative and media would be the best option for any brand.

He adds that in reality it’s not always practical – that when it comes to performance marketing, the media agency is the lead agency. 

“Often the creative agency is tasked with cracking the main communication and key visuals which is really their strength. The media agency should however be able to take the main communication and adapt the same into media creatives at their end and optimise the communication for conversion. Too often when the performance creatives come from the creative agency and the campaigns are run by the media agency, a single agency cannot be held accountable for the overall campaign performance with each agency finding fault with the other,” he adds. 

Azmat Habibulla
Azmat Habibulla

Azmat Habibulla, Chief Marketing Officer, South Indian Bank, believes that  two should be kept separate and each requires unique skill sets and specialist agencies respectively.

She explains, “On one hand, working with the same creative and media agency helps ensure consistency in the brand message and cohesive marketing strategy across different channels. This can be particularly important for performance marketing, where the focus is on driving conversions and optimising ROI. Also, working with a single agency helps in better alignment between the messaging and targeting, leading to better performance.”

“On the other hand, there could be pros of having separate creative and media agencies. For instance, a specialised media agency may have deeper expertise in particular channels or platforms, and be better equipped to optimise campaigns for specific goals, such as driving traffic or increasing engagement. A creative agency, on the other hand, may be better positioned to develop compelling and memorable brand messaging and creative assets that resonate with the target audience,” she adds. 

Kiran James
Kiran James

Kiran James, Associate Vice President, Muthoot Mini, believes that it is always better to have a unified creative and media agency as the impact is multifold when the media team is an active stakeholder in the creative decision making process. Things work best when both work together for a better outcome from the campaign instead of in silos, he contends. 

“It ensures the critical inputs of the media team are well aligned for the campaign success with the right creative approach. While content is the king, media is the queen who ensures the king gets its due, so the creative and media agency should be the same. It ensures that the critical inputs of the media team from an execution perspective are well aligned in the communication for higher chances of success and eventually drive strong ROI,” James adds. 

Awanish, Associate Vice President (Marketing) at Edureka

According to Awanish, Associate Vice President (Marketing) at Edureka, creative and media agencies can be different for performance marketing as they both have different tasks. 

“But having said that, if the agency has enough experts in both domains, like a full-stack marketing agency, the same agency can cater to the needs. Creative agency works on brand’s messaging and content production. While the media agency takes care of the visibility. They decide the distribution channels and where the advertisement will be shown. In performance marketing, you pay for a click or a lead or a sale, etc. So deciding the right channel is very important. And this  decision lies with the media agency. Because at the end of the day, they will be majorly responsible for answering about the campaign performance,” he adds. 

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