Just recently, MediaPost and Forbes published the results of an online study conducted by Avidan Strategies, LLC, where 1,900 leaders in marketing, media and procurement reported a general discontent with their return on advertising agency investment and agency relationships.
While the full study details all aspects of the agency-client relationship, the key findings highlight several swings in these relationships, in marketing planning, and in the communications business as a whole.
Although this report may seem dim for some of us, there’s never been a better time to be in the ad agency business.
Several years ago, we saw a trend of clients seeking “specialist agencies.” Clients would say, “I want an SEO agency to handle SEO, a social agency to handle social media, a media buying agency…” You get the idea.
The thought was that specialist agencies (or micro specialist agencies) held core experience and expertise that full service agencies just didn’t have. Some respondents reported to engage as many 20 agencies at one time. That’s 20 phone calls to make when promotions change, when product launches have to hit the streets and when actions need to be taken. Sounds terribly exhausting and fragmented for a client — no wonder they were unhappy.
Large agencies and agency holding companies could not move fast enough to efficiently bring creative solutions in new media. Like trying to steer the Titanic away from an iceberg, they may not have been able to navigate the waters of new media and new challenges. They relied on partner specialist agencies and left it to the client to attempt to integrate the process.
However, some agencies are more nimble.
We invested in the key talent, tools and resources in-house just as early as the specialist agencies, thus giving our clients a fully integrated client experience. Our digital integration began way back in 1997. Today, brand strategists, creative developers, search marketing specialists, user experience designers, mobile marketers and local marketing experts all gather under one roof to solve a collective client challenge.
In the last year alone, 70 percent of our last new hires came from specialty agencies. Specialists left their previous posts because they wanted to be part of the strategic planning process, not part of a narrow service solution. They wanted to be partners, not vendors.
The report not only underscores the power of integrated agencies — it shows the shift to mid-sized agencies. The article notes, “Big agencies handle the majority of advertising dollars, but they don’t articulate a better value proposition to clients. 73 percent of the study respondents believe that small and medium-size agencies are more creative.”
Ultimately, clients do not want an “insert-media-of the-moment agency here.” They want a business-building agency. They want quick answers from a team that can move as fast as they can. They want efficient and creative solutions, no matter what the channel, the device or who the target is.
Great for us; bad for others.