Marketers look to agencies for strategic help

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Marketing clients place a premium on the creative work and strategic ideas coming from their agencies, according to a study released last month by the Association of National Advertisers.

The study found the No. 1 thing clients want from their agency partners is effective campaigns (56%), followed by outstanding ideas and implementation (40%) and strategic counsel and insights (35%).

"They want their creative to be on strategy," said Barbara Bacci Mirque, executive director of the ANA. "They want their business understood, and they want their agency to meet their strategic goals."

When asked what they want from their agencies overall, 95% of clients said they want outstanding service, 95% said they want responsiveness and 86% said campaigns that are effective in meeting their goals.

Further down on the list of wants, are agencies that push for risky work (43%), creative that wins awards (13%) and agencies that implement based on client direction (10%).

"They don’t want agencies just to be doers based on what they say," Mirque said. "They want some strategic counsel and insight from their agencies."

The survey, conducted for the ANA by agency consultant Joanne Davis and fielded by Lightspeed Research, also asked agencies what was important to them in working with clients.

The top three things agencies want from clients are respect and trust (57%), fair payment (41%) and communications (39%).

Agencies are least interested in clients that want to win awards (13%), have the right-level skills and talent (13%) and provide leadership and inspiration (8%).

Satisfied with understanding

Of the 100-plus clients surveyed, 91% said they were satisfied with their agency’s having a team that understands their business. Ninety percent said they were satisfied with their agency’s ability to develop solutions and work quickly, and 87% said they were satisfied with their agency’s ability to develop effective campaigns.

The top issue that advertisers said affects the client-agency relationship is a disconnect between strategy and creative (24%). Other problem areas that affect the relationship are work that is off-target from the strategy (23%), high production costs (22%) and agencies taking too long with the work or making too many reworks (21%). Only 15% of the respondents said creative arrogance was an issue.

Twenty-six percent of respondents said they had had a "serious" problem with an agency in the past three years.

When a problem occurred, 35% of clients changed agency staff and 20% reduced their work with the problem agency or added another agency.

When there was a serious problem, 44% of clients said their agencies were able to fix the problem once they were notified of it.

When agencies were asked what actions they took to solve a problem they had caused, 89% said they brought in their senior management to address the problem. Other steps taken included changing their processes (82%) or team (82%).

When resolving issues caused by the client, agencies said again that their top response was to bring in senior agency management (84%). Agencies also said they need to be more candid with the client about how issues were assessed (71%), provide better explanations of agency processes (71%), provide better explanation of their costs (67%) and share best practices from other clients (59%).

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