Marketers and Agencies: Looking Through A Different Lens

For the second year in a row, marketers are far more enthusiastic about traditional media than their ad agency counterparts. 

How is this possible? Marketers? The shiny object chasers? At least that’s the way some agencies refer to them in our latest national marketer and agency survey.

In RSW/US’ 2017 New Year Outlook Survey Report, 34% of marketers anticipate their spending on traditional media will go up “somewhat” relative to 2016. This compares to only 16% of agencies believing their marketing counterparts will push for upticks in spending in the traditional space.

In the same survey, 79% of agencies stated they believe marketer spending in the mobile space will be “somewhat” or “significantly” higher in 2017 than it was in 2016. This compares to only 60% of marketers feeling the same way… also a marked difference.

Source: RSW/US 2017 New Year Outlook Survey Report

Source: RSW/US 2017 New Year Outlook Survey Report

The difference that exists between agencies and marketers suggests marketers still strongly believe in integrated marketing. Even though at times they appear to be enamored with the latest in marketing technology and the next hottest thing in social media, they are still relatively grounded in terms of believing that coordinated messaging over multiple platforms is an important way to communicate with, and influence consumers.

Differences not only exist in how marketers and agencies perceive the relative value of traditional media, there are also big differences in how investment in business is trending—with agencies’ investments dropping since 2014 and marketers exhibiting a tendency to increase the amount of money they’re putting into employees, technology, and other things they need to build their businesses. 

This is more worrying than the differences that exist between marketers’ and agencies’ commitment to traditional media.

Source: RSW/US 2017 New Year Outlook Survey Report

Source: RSW/US 2017 New Year Outlook Survey Report

On the one level, it is of concern given the growth in technology, analytics, and data. And let’s not forget about the need for smart, technically-minded and strategic, business-minded employees who can help make an agency a solid partner in a client’s business—and not just their creative outpost. This all takes money.

I know that agencies are getting pinched by their marketing counterparts. More work is being parsed out as project work (35% of agencies stated over 60% of their work is now project based). More marketers are moving business in-house (over 50% of all marketers expect to move some agency work in-house). And clients are asking agencies to do more with less.

I also fully realize that it’s a tricky path to navigate. To be a solid, forward-leaning partner, you have to invest in your business. But it’s tough to invest when so much is being pulled away.

My counsel is to forge strong strategic partnerships with back-end development firms, analytics firms, marketing technology firms… so at the very least, you are armed with an arsenal of tools to help you help your client move their business forward.

The other counsel I’d offer is: focus. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Pick a space or two and try and own it. The more expert you are in a category or type of business, the more permission you have to look for better fitting, better paying clients.

The second concern brought to light as we see agencies invest less in their businesses, is the impact this will have on new business.

There are more agencies out there vying for business today than there were in year’s past (as more and more specialty agencies pop up). With more marketers parsing out more project work and more marketers moving more work in-house, it is more critical today than ever before that agencies have a solid plan for winning new business going forward. 

As marketers consolidate and there are fewer of them to hand out the referrals and to network with, more agencies will need to kick-start their new business programs just to stay where they are. 

Regardless of whether you invest in people or in technology—or look outside to support the effort… do something. Don’t short-change the new business program.

I used to work for the former head of Häagen-Dazs who once told me, “You can’t save your way to salvation.” 

Those are sage words for agencies looking to stay a step ahead of their clients and a few steps ahead of the agencies they’re competing with.

Stay calm, charge ahead!


Mark Sneider is the founder and president of RSW/US. Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. He started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics.

Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005 and RSW/AgencySearch in 2010, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. He also worked in consumer packaged goods marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands.

Mark Sneider can be reached via phone (513-559-3101) or email (mark@rswus.com).

RSW/US is a full service, outsourced business development group that helps Marketing Agencies (of any type/size) win new business by developing positioning and prospecting plans, building the industry’s cleanest and most customized lists, getting clients qualified meetings in front of decision makers, and moving clients beyond the initial meeting to get them closer to close.

© Mark Sneider and RSW/US. All Rights Reserved.


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