After speaking with some of my agency CEO peers, as well as clients, I'm convinced there's confusion regarding roles. Are agencies responsible for meeting goals or actually providing the validation? It used to be that clients had a quarterly ad-tracking study to measure success; now agencies have to provide the vehicles for measurement as well as the metrics. There's also confusion regarding buy-in on metrics.
If the CMO is on board with how you are going to measure success, is that enough? Or does the CEO need to be on board, too? We had an experience recently where we agreed with our client about how success would be measured. What we hadn't counted on is that the chairman of the company had a different idea about how it should be done. We learned about it after the campaign ran.
I am sure some agency-client relationships are doing a nice job of applying ROI. However, most are just talking about it. Tripping over it. Glossing over it. Not being fully committed to it. Hoping the client won't bring it up. Afraid to have the frank discussions about it at the beginning of a relationship, or during it. Or all of the above. As a result, there is too much gray area, and both sides are growing frustrated.
So I think agencies ought to take the lead. Bring up measurement with your clients. Agree on what success is, how it will be tracked, and who will be responsible for reporting it. If you wait for clients to take the initiative, you could get your agency in trouble. Today, it is irresponsible to launch a marketing campaign without defined goals and metrics. Do that, and you'll increase your odds that you'll get fired soon -- because no one will know if your campaign worked, even if you think it did. Just one caution: if sales is the metric, be sure that your client has excellent methods of tracking. And if the product is a complex sale, you had better be 100% confident that your client has a sales team in place that knows how to close. Or else, the blame game will be pointed at you.
Good luck. And may the ROI be with you.