Good news is only 32% of marketers expect to see a decline in their marketing spending levels in 2021 (according to our 2021 New Year Outlook Survey Report).

The not-so-good news (for agencies and the marketing community as a whole) is that only 41% of marketers expect to see spending “somewhat” or “significantly” increase in 2021.

That’s the lowest level since 2013, which was a full five years after the “Great Recession” of ’08.

We suspect that the lower levels of spending expected by marketers in 2021 is likely driven by a couple factors:  One is the marketer’s general level of conservative play, given they do not know what 2021 will bring.

The other is likely driven by the fact that the move to more lower cost platforms like digital and social media to drive their business in 2020 is believed by marketers to continue at the same or an even more aggressive pace through the balance of this year.

Marketers seem (in part) to realize they can do as good a job marketing their business without all the typical high-priced tactics they’ve used in the past.

58% of agencies believe their clients will “somewhat” or “significantly” increase spending, a level higher than levels agencies have reported in each of the past 4 years.

We suspect the reason for these projections (relative to their marketing counterparts) is that agencies may be benchmarking off of lower levels of marketing spending that occurred in 2020, believing it will bounce back more significantly than marketers anticipate.  Or, they might simply think that the more aggressive use of lower cost platforms (like digital and social) won’t exist in 2021 at the same level as it more or less had to in 2020.

So what does this mean for you, the marketer?

If more of you are expecting to spend less marketing money, this means that agencies need to get creative in how they service your brands and business and how they prove their value to you.

If you’re currently not getting higher levels of creativity and thinking from your agencies – or if you haven’t seen this “step-up” by your agencies over this past year, you might want to consider giving a look for some alternatives.

Agencies need to be taking the lead.

Focusing too heavily on things that an agency would typically focus on during non-COVID periods (e.g. big spending campaigns) and not on things that can more efficiently drive business – like business intelligence, data and analytics, and digital marketing – are the best ways your agency can show you that they are a real difference maker.