The Old Digital Marketing Agency Model Is Dead. Here’s Why.

After all, the new era of digital marketing ushered in by the likes of iOS 14.5 and increased automation across ad platforms has fundamentally changed the work of performance marketers. Long gone are the days when a performance marketer spent their time manually identifying top keywords, raising and lowering bids to maximize ROI, and adjusting modifiers for devices and audiences. Today, Google’s automated smart bidding capabilities can look at 70 million permutations of a keyword to determine what your bid should be in milliseconds. No search engine marketing (SEM) manager can compete with that! On the Facebook Ads side, iOS 14.5 decimated audience testing strategies, making broad targeting (no target audience specified) the new best practice.

Most digital marketing agencies haven’t addressed this change yet. They’re still charging 15% of a client’s ad spend to manage their account — though what, exactly, they’re managing is less clear than ever. The result? Clients that feel like they’ve gotten burned over and over again. 

So yes, the old digital marketing agency model is dead. And at Coast Digital, we’re paving a new way to provide real value to clients. Here’s how we’re doing it. 

A Creative First Model

The growing consensus in the performance marketing space is that creative testing is the last lever left for brands to pull. With the rise of automated campaigns and restricted insights, what ads look like and the value props they highlight are really the only ways that brands can stand out from their competition. 

But many agencies still treat creative as an afterthought or an add-on to their performance marketing services. This does the brands that work with them an extraordinary disservice. Not only does this lead to underperforming campaigns, but this approach also leaves clients completely in the dark as to why certain ads worked and others did not. 

Assets Before Ad Spend

Coast Digital’s approach flips the traditional agency structure on its head. Our client engagements are structured around providing a set number of creative assets first, and ad spend second. This asset-first approach means there is no risk of us not providing value to our clients, as we are constantly creating new ads and keeping careful records of what works and what doesn’t. 

Let’s take a worst-case scenario as an example. At a traditional agency, a client whose campaigns underperformed (or didn’t perform at all) will walk away with nothing but a hole in their pocket and a bad taste in their mouths. At Coast Digital, if that same client dissengaged,  they would walk away with a library of net-new creative assets. They’ll also leave with a treasure trove of data and insights on what value props and CTAs resonate with audiences, and which ones don’t. This means they have a huge head start in whatever next step they decide to take after our relationship ends.

Creative Strategists > Paid Media Managers

I mentioned in the introduction to this article that the day-to-day work of paid media managers has fundamentally changed — if not disappeared altogether — in the wake of increasing automation. 

Don’t get me wrong, seasoned paid media managers can still provide plenty of value for clients. It takes a team of experts to see the evolution of ad platforms over time and understand how to work with automation to optimize results. Take a recent example from one of Coast’s Clients: Our team noticed that our Performance Max campaigns were channeling all of the budget to just a handful of a client’s SKUs. So instead of letting the zombie SKUs (products that were getting impressions but not generating conversions) languish, we put them into their own campaigns with separate budgets to force Google’s algorithm to focus on these products. So far, performance has been very positive.

We were able to provide value to that client by redefining what it means to be a paid media manager. We took a step back from the nitty-gritty data to see the 30,000-foot view. The work we do is more aligned with overarching performance creative strategy than the traditional nuts and bolts of paid media management. Instead of thinking about CPCs and CPMs, we’ve shifted our focus to creative metrics like thumb-stop rates, hook rates, click-through rates, and more. 

The challenge of digital marketing in today’s landscape is in the creative — in measuring performance and iterating assets in a meaningful way — not in the ad platforms themselves. Our approach reflects that. 

Radical Transparency

As third parties to brands, there has always been a lack of transparency in the client-agency relationship. Even before the shift to remote work brought on by the pandemic, it was difficult for clients to tell exactly what their agency was doing daily or even weekly. Layers of sales teams and account managers only made the communication problems inherent to outsourcing even worse. And this has been further compounded by confusion around the value paid media managers provide in the face of automated campaigns. 

But Coast Digital’s creative-first approach eliminates questions of transparency. We deliver creative assets on a monthly basis and create an always-on dashboard where clients can view custom performance metrics in real-time. We don’t run clients up the chain of account managers and customer success reps that can only offer vague performance insights and excuses. Instead, we empower clients with the data and best-in-class expertise they need to make informed and strategic decisions about their next best step. 

The Coast Digital Way

Digital marketing is a new ball game, but the big agencies are still playing by the old rules. The new era of marketing requires a new type of agency — one like Coast Digital. 

We aren’t the typical performance marketing agency that launches campaigns and sends faceless weekly reports. We’re a holistic partner to our clients, and our mission is to empower ecommerce brands with the creative assets, data, and tailored recommendations they need in order to succeed in today’s increasingly competitive landscape. Our all-in-one combination of performance creative, paid marketing, and comprehensive growth strategy allows our clients to focus on what is most important — their brand, their product, and their customers.

So if you’re ready to leave overly expensive and increasingly opaque agency relationships behind, let’s talk

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