The key takeaways from this study really brought some of the common lunch and coffee conversations around the industry to life. What’s perhaps most interesting is to see that the big issues aren’t isolated to a few marketers or agencies, with many of the
LACKING THE LONG GAME A BRIEF ISSUE
Perhaps as a direct result of the lack of clear strategic thinking, marketers were also criticised for not being able to clearly outline their objectives in briefs. Briefs were described as often being incomplete, unclear or far too ambitious for the available budget— all of which contributes to the agency lacking sufficient direction to develop work that meets the expectations of the client.
The contributors didn’t agree on everything, but one area where they were unified was when it came to pitching. Appalling, shocking, laborious, unprofessional, unfair and time-wasting were just some of the descriptions used to describe the process. The general consensus was that something has to give. “It’s a shocker,” said one agency head. “Imagine going to five architects to design you a house, pay them nothing, pick the one you like and take the bits of the presentation from the others you liked. It must change!” Strategic thinking served as one of the major themes when we previously ran the ‘Agency Perceptions’ study and the issue again emerged in this study. Various agency heads said that marketers often lack long- term vision of what a brand could become. This issue fosters short- term tactical responses in lieu of the big- picture thinking necessary to create well- established brands.
THE DIGITAL GAP
As digital plays an increasingly significant role in the comms mix, the skills shortcomings in this space become more apparent. “Most client digital teams are a mess,” said one agency head, explaining that the marketers they work with are struggling to keep up with the rapid advances in the industry. There was a broad call for marketers to upskill in digital, data and customer experience if they are to develop marketing strategies that truly meet the needs of modern consumers.
Having a number of specialist partners is the reality. While some are opposed to this, others believe it can work if clear ownership and roles are laid out by the client. But as one agency head pointed out, the polygamous approach places a greater onus on the marketer’s strategic nous: “[ Success] depends on the marketer’s ability to pull these different partners together and if they are doing it for the right reasons. I have seen it fail spectacularly, I am not sure I have ever seen it succeed spectacularly. I would argue most marketing departments would have to change their structure first to get any consistency from the different partners with regard to quality and true integration.”
A FEARFUL BUNCH
One common criticism levelled at marketers was that they were often fearful when it came to campaigns and executions. This, according to the respondents, had a major impact on the levels of creativity and experimentation we see in the industry. Marketers are seen to be taking the safe route far too often.
Criticism of traditional practices did not focus on media channels, but instead on the corporate structure within clients’ businesses. Legacy systems combined with oldfashioned leadership styles were seen as creating an inflexible corporate culture that makes it difficult to deliver effective work.
The brand perceptions study was conducted by Tangible Media and TRA and was completed by 40 agency executives. While that might seem like a small number, they have some of the most informed opinions when it comes to working alongside marketers. So we think their views offer an important insight into the mood of marketing and the role of agencies.
The previous pages showcase some of the highlights of our marketer perceptions research. But there’s more information about the strengths and weaknesses of specific brands available. So if you’re a marketer that wants to know more about how your brand is perceived by the executives we surveyed, contact commercial manager Vernene Medcalf to buy the full report.