In our 2018 RSW/AgencySearch New Year Outlook Report, we unearthed changes and shifts in the market that might have bigger, full service shops a bit concerned.

Today, more so than years past, marketers are looking to fill voids left by specialty agency talent in their roster shops at what could be considered an alarming pace.


In 2013, only 47% of marketers stated they were looking for “specialty agencies”.  At the end of last year, 71% of marketers in our survey said they needed help from specialty firms.

The trend we’re seeing, where more marketers are looking for specialty agencies, is driven by three factors:

  1. The media/marketing landscape is extremely fragmented and getting more complex, thus creating a greater need for smart, specialized agencies to complement existing relationships.
  2. The growing importance of data and analytics.

This year, 87% of marketers stated data/analytics were important when looking for a new agency.

Last year, only 73% of marketers felt that way, so the growing need to find agencies that are solid in this area drives marketers to more specialized firms.

  1. The third reason is that while a significant number of marketers feel it is “Extremely Important” to measure ROI for digital and traditional media (77% and 61%, respectively)…

…only 15% of Marketers feel their agency is “Very Effective” at supporting their need to measure return on marketing investment. 

Agencies also aren’t too enthusiastic about their own skills (only 38% rated themselves “very effective”).

So, while all of these findings in no way suggest agencies need to drop everything they’ve been doing and suddenly become the quintessential agency expert at something specialized, it does suggest that agencies need to stay steps ahead of their clients and bring them the expertise they deserve.

In 2015, we created an infographic called 8 Animal Traits Agencies Need to Survive.  One of those animals, the ant, was used to represent the need for agencies to be curators of “best-in-class” talents – owned by the agency or otherwise. In our surveys, marketers tell us that agencies don’t have to own it all – strategic partnerships are fine.

So if an agency is lacking in specific talents, they need to get out there and find it before their client decides to find it on their own.

And if they don’t, it might be time for you to look for a new marketing agency.