Staff Reporters
Aug 6, 2013

Big Data: Agencies in competition with tech firms

Big data players such as IBM and Oracle are reaching out to CMOs after investing in marketing services. Should agencies in Asia be concerned and what can they do about it?

L-R: Khatibloo, Murty, Ng
L-R: Khatibloo, Murty, Ng

Fatemeh Khatibloo 

Senior analyst

A decade ago, firms like Oracle, IBM, and Accenture were deeply rooted to the IT departments of their client companies. But as CMOs began increasing their demands on the CIO’s office, these firms quickly realised that there was an opportunity to create new revenue channels and cast a net far beyond the CIO.

Should agencies worry? Yes and no. On one hand, these vendors enjoy credibility with key stakeholders; they have broad client bases, giving them industry and domain expertise; and they understand how to draft compelling, strategic business cases and are adept at designing the change management processes require for success. 

Culturally, however, there’s often a disconnect between the strategies they develop and execution (where agencies traditionally excel). Agencies that want to compete must do two things: first, bolster strategic and management consulting capabilities taking them well beyond marketing into areas like operations and data management; second, invest heavily in customer analytics. The ability to mine data and provide insight about your clients’ most valuable customers will make the agency indispensable.


Jayant Murty

Director, brand strategy, integrated and partner marketing

Which colour is most likely to tell you that a used car is in good shape? How does Target know you are pregnant? And how does Google predict the spread of a flu outbreak before the Centre for Disease Control? All good questions that finally have answers. 

Big data goes well beyond media and targeting, and decision makers are likely to seek partners that understand this at a more abstract level. 

At this point in time, the companies best equipped to lead are the ones that are at the intersection of technology and social science. These are the ones who can play in the space between science-fiction and science-fact, who have a history of writing algorithms to solve business issues and have a tradition of hiring scientists and mathematicians, which is not what you see in agencies, but in established technology companies and tech startups.


Stanley Ng 

Associate director, APAC
Media Innovation Group

Running successful digital media campaigns requires a unique marriage of technology, media and data. It is not a simple equation and not one single industry player can become an expert in every area of digital speciality. Harnessing all of these elements and keeping your technology fully up-to-date to stay ahead in the ever-changing digital media landscape is a huge, dynamic technical undertaking. This is why startups in the digital space spring up every week, and mergers, acquisitions and partnerships form daily. 

Big data players like IBM and Oracle should be focusing on finding a way to integrate their data, technology and core offline capabilities with digital agencies and other technology and data players within the industry. This will enable them to offer advertisers an even more comprehensive solution that effectively utilises an increased variety of data in an efficient and insightful way. 

Digital agencies, on the other hand, should be reaching out to these big data players for increased cooperation in leveraging their databases and technology capabilities as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition and strengthen their ‘value-add offering’.

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