Last week Adweek published an article featuring our latest survey.

A couple of months ago, Adweek asked us to probe specific questions related to Marketing Agency reviews.

They were seeing trends that suggested marketers were puting more attention on things operational (like costs, organizational structure, etc.) and believed that in the process, all things creative were taking a back seat.

What we (and Adweek) found was interesting.

Truth is, marketers are focusing more on things related to a marketing agency’s processes and efficiency.  Marketers are feeling the pinch, so they are making sure that they are getting the most out of their firms.

73% of marketers in our survey stated that operational considerations are growing in importance when reviewing new firms.

And 50% of agencies agree.  They are feeling the heat during these reviews and are being asked questions about their business just as much (or more) than they are about their creative output and strategic thinking.

And agencies aren’t liking it – with 31% of them saying that marketers are placing too much emphasis on things that aren’t related to the creative and strategic deliverables for the marketer’s business.

Interestingly, 77% of marketers say they don’t feel like their growing focus on all things operational is hampering the creative process…so they don’t really seem to be feeling the effect of their efforts to put more pressure on marketing agencies.

We suspect this is the case becuase the likelihood is that agencies are, for the most part, giving in and simply doing more with less.

86% of agencies seem resigned to giving marketers more.

We suspect that what’s happening here is Marketers are pushing it as far as they can (and will continue to do so) to drive as much operational efficiency out of their Agency partners.

It is clear that Marketers don’t view what they’re doing as harmful to the creative process because they’re getting what they want. In open ended comments (when asked “why” Marketers didn’t think it was hampering the creative process), their feelings relative to expectations surfaced in comments such as:

  • “Being creative shouldn’t be related to cost”
  • “It’s a balance. Smart business is to understand creative AND operations”
  • “It’s the economy…Agencies are expected to do more with less”
  • “Operations excellence is a mandatory”

While it’s certainly reasonable for a Marketer to expect that their Agency run their business like a business, and be as efficient as they can…the caution is that if Marketers try and squeeze too much out of a new Agency partner too early in the relationship, it’s going to make for a rocky start and a less than stellar relationship.

So What From a Marketer’s point of view, you ideally want to be in a position where you have choices…but you don’t want to abuse that opportunity. Our concern is that if Marketers push too far, they’ll lose out on good opportunities to partner with great Agencies.

We’ve talked to plenty of Agencies that have simply refused to participate in RFPs provided by Marketers because the demands were too great or the expectations of what the Marketer wanted to achieve with the budget they had, was too far out of line from reality.

This is not the best way to find the best talent.