Honeymoon’s over: Clients feel ‘let down’ by agencies

angry 1Reports that Covid-19 has seen clients and their agency partners show the love have been scotched by a new study which reveals the relationship is more like a one-sided marriage, with marketers feeling let down by agencies at a time when they need them most.

In August, “The Impact of Covid-19 on UK Marketing” report by new business agency Alchemis, insisted the pandemic had strengthened client-agency relationships by driving companies closer together to work through the crisis.

However, new research from Alan, the rebranded marketing agency arm of Raconteur, reveals the honeymoon is well and truly over.

Its survey of 600 senior marketers (CMO or equivalent) across the UK and Ireland shows that two-fifths (42%) believe their agency partners do not act in the organisation’s best interests, one in four (26%) do not think their agencies understand their objectives, and nearly a third (31%) feel that they do not get value for money.

The findings come at a time when senior marketers are under immense pressure, following budget cuts (experienced by 53%), headcount reductions (43%), and generally having to achieve more with less (71%).

Two-fifths (40%) of marketers feel less secure in their role compared to six months ago, while over two thirds (68%) say it is more important than ever that they prove the ROI of marketing activities.

Yet, despite these challenges, there are significant opportunities for agencies to show their clients what they are capable of, the study’s authors insist.

According to over half of respondents (56%), Covid has accelerated the shift from offline to online, while 43% see brand awareness as a top priority for 2020/2021. Furthermore, nearly a third (30%) of senior marketers say they want to be bolder and more daring with campaigns, and nearly two-fifths (39% )say they lack strategic marketing expertise in-house.

Benedict Buckland, creative director of Alan, said: “The crisis has given agencies a chance to go the extra mile for clients and showcase their creativity, but our findings suggest that many haven’t stepped up to the plate.”

The biggest agency frustrations named by marketers were speed of delivery (39%), transparency around time frames (37%) and refusal to commit to results (35%). Perhaps the most damaging factor, however, is that two out of three (66%) said their agency partners lack substance and depth.

Buckland concluded: “With senior marketers under pressure like never before, it’s important that agencies listen to their needs and concerns, with the aim of adding value where it really matters. We as an industry have an opportunity to experiment and influence strategy at a time when brand building is more important than ever.”

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