What Brands Want Agencies to Fix

Agencies are struggling, in fits and starts, to reinvent themselves while catering to their clients’ current needs. There’s always room for improvement on both sides, of course.

But many brands you speak to have various levels of frustration with their agencies. There’s an impatience with how well-equipped many agencies are to a vastly different marketing world. Digiday spoke to four brand execs, who asked to remain anonymous, about what agencies need to improve on. The common consensus is that agencies don’t take the time to really understand their clients.

Brand Exec A
The biggest one is to remember that every day [brand execs] wake up thinking about three or four key competitors. Knowing our brand is table stakes; after all, we already know our brand. Whether it’s an agency or a startup partner, they’re of no use if they’re not as obsessed with our competitors as we are. Another thing that makes me nuts sometimes is account managers that don’t know how to say, “I don’t know, I’ll get back to you.” We don’t expect you to be an expert at our business or to know everything. Off-the-cuff responses and promises are the worst thing for the relationship. And please, never repeat any of the cliches from Douchey Account Guy.

Brand Exec B
More clarity around staffing and the actual hours spent on the client business. It’s still largely a “black-box” sort of thing and agencies are resistant to full transparency and accountability in this area. I understand why, but it impacts trust between client and agency.

Brand Exec C
In my view, agencies overall have to get better about listening and learning about their clients’ business. Over the years, I’ve experienced agencies going back to repeatable programs and strategies versus listening for new opportunities. As the agency models continue to change, the days of cookie-cutter approaches are over. You have to provide a new level of value to your clients to retain their business. So often agencies seem to get stuck in a rut, and they can’t think differently. At the same time, they’re telling their clients to listen to clients/customers, many of them fail to do it with their clients.

Brand Exec D
I wish sometimes that the agencies would stick to what they are good at. They try to do everything, and they would be better served to narrow their focus. You can’t do everything, and if you try to do everything, you do nothing. I mean, look at Undercurrent. It only does strategy, so they are never competing with anyone. Then there’s a lot of agencies that are focusing specifically on mobile. There’s not a lot of people doing mobile really well, so these mobile agencies have a leg up. It drives me crazy when the agency is trying to pitch you every single service available. Another thing is a lot of our agencies treat us too preciously. We need a bit more aggressive ideas because mediocre ideas, even if they are on brand, won’t do well. It’s OK to go out of your comfort zone. Another thing is coordination between agencies. Agencies have better work when they work together and everyone keeps saying it’s important, but I never see that happen in practice.

Image via Shutterstock


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