Agencies need to redesign themselves around the client.
Updated: Feb 19, 2018
The agency landscape is in a state of flux: clients are increasingly frustrated by agencies' failure to evolve as rapidly as they need.
A report by CreativeBrief found that 68% of agency respondents and 72% of brands believe that 'agency structures, processes and pace of delivery' are not developing at the same rate as a brand's needs. A survey conducted by Joanne Davis Consulting and Scan International stated that 39% of clients discuss their concerns about the agency's performance or make an effort to find other solutions.
What on earth is going on?
The answer may partly lie in that Advertisers born in a digital age are more confident of their own abilities to manage marketing, data and customer relationships. They just don’t believe they have to rely on agencies to do all of this for them.
Added to which, CMOs are under enormous pressure to demonstrate ROI: it’s not just about Brand Awareness anymore. With clients cutting down on agency rosters and more clients turning to in-house solutions, clearly agencies aren’t demonstrating enough value. P&G, as an example, have reduced their agency roster by almost 50% and Unilever are following suit.
And the P&G and Unilever data isn’t just a blip: as many as 62% of clients questioned in the Media 2020 report say they will be using fewer agencies in the future. (ISBA, MediaSense and IPSOS Connect Report 2017.)
As a result agencies are under more pressure from competition, tighter budgets and reduced margins.
Unfortunately the agency responses to these pressures just exacerbates the problems: offer more and work harder!
The 'offer more' or 'do it all' strategy offers claims which are often neither believable nor necessary. As one CMO once put it – "when was the last time an agency told you – actually that’s not our strong point"! KFC's global CMO Jennelle Tilling says she finds the idea of having just one agency "dangerous" because she wants diversity of thought.
And 'work harder' doesn’t seem to be a Millenial employee proposition: Campaign's 2017's Faces to Watch have attacked the ad industry's 'work hard, play hard' culture for being out of touch with the needs of the modern workforce.
Former chief strategy officer at TBWA/London Amelia Torode predicts that the agency world will see 'an outflux of talent' over the next 5 to 10 years as the most talented people extricate themselves from 'big, clunky, networked' agency structures in favour of picking their own projects as freelancers.
'It is now apparent that a shift towards more agile working practices is emerging as an underlying trend shaping the future of agency-client engagement.' (IPA/Econsultancy Report 2017.)
A final point – its clear to us that clients often feel caught between the scale of large networks and the specialist niche agencies: caught between the new Accenture model of 'custodian of the entire brand experience' vs a cluster of specialist agencies requiring full-time management by the marketing team. In the face of these challenges we believe there is another way. And that our approach reflects the need for agility, value and a client focussed outlook.
What clients really need from agencies is flexibility and more tailored expertise – expertise that has been designed around the client agenda – not that of the agency.
Count of Three is a new agency liberated from traditional structures which breed overheads and the need for retainers. We work on a project basis and every project team is put together specifically for the brief-in-hand. Above all, we focus on solving the client's marketing challenge not the agency process. We add to the client team – in-house or agency – and manage that expertise to find the right solution.
We call our approach Be Brief, Be Bright and Be Gone.