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Blog / 4 Things We Hear Agencies are Struggling With

4 Things We Hear Agencies are Struggling With

Keeping clients happy and fending off competition at the same time is tough, leaving little time to focus on creativity and delivering value. But, aren’t these the same challenges agencies have always faced? In this post, Adverity’s John Ball talks through the 4 things he most often hears people from marketing and advertising agencies telling him.

Imagine what someone like David Ogilvy would think about the richness of tools marketers now have at their disposal - yet here we are, still facing the same challenges he faced throughout the last century. The four pillars he built his empire on still resonate and stand as cornerstones of any modern day marketer's mindset: be creative, do your research, speak to your clients, and work hard. So, if we follow these simple tenets, why is it still so hard to make an impact?

One argument is that the problem for a marketer now is similar to that of Ayer & Son way back in the 1880s - the paradox of appealing to many, yet targeting the few. The idea of having control, but automating the process. We know that the world is so big, yet can feel so small, so how can an agency mitigate this and still get their message across in a compelling way.

The world as a whole today looks incredibly different to that of a couple of years ago, let alone a hundred. But, other than some specific logistical problems COVID-19 has caused, the core challenges agencies face remain the same. Here are the 4 core issues we hear in daily conversations with agencies, and it feels like these haven’t really changed in the past 100 years.

“We’re too busy doing ‘xyz’, we can’t find the time to improve how we do it.”

For an ambitious marketer, this is particularly relevant. You’d love to be doing super-exciting projects, building massive value for your clients, and working on cutting edge campaigns. But you are too stretched and bogged down with regular mundane tasks to even be able to deliver what you are currently working on, let alone work on something new. This becomes especially poignant when we talk to those tasked with reporting campaign activity to clients. The questions are always the same: How do you deal with the numerous data sources? Can you speed up that reporting? How can you create a compelling narrative around what’s been happening?

For many the current answer is to download some data files, crunch the numbers in Excel, and send a dull, static report in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. But instead, what if you could automate the collection of that data, and use dynamic dashboards to deliver the reports directly to the client? You’ll not only be providing immediate value to them, but also saving huge amounts of time, which you can use to create those super-exciting projects you always wanted to work on.

Speeding up reporting can bring you the time you need to deliver added value. Here’s how the team at Hotspex Media, a Canadian programmatic trading desk, altered their operations to spend 40% less time on creating client-facing reports.

Check out our agency guide to data storytelling!


“We’ve always done things this way. Why should we change now?”

Fear of the unknown can be a serious barrier to innovation. Today, it’s not true that “no one was ever fired for buying IBM”. Things are no longer that simple. Nonetheless, a question we all should be asking to our clients, and of ourselves: is the current solution as efficient and effective as it could be? What would happen if you don’t change? Will you follow the path of Blockbuster or rise like Netflix?

If delivering value to clients is a key focus for your agency, it makes sense to focus on improving that and driving your organization further up the data-maturity curve. Because there’s no clearer way in demonstrating the value your campaigns have brought to the clients than using data. But if you’re still struggling with Excel sheets and PPTs, there’s no way for you to differentiate from other agencies. Making the reporting process more smooth and efficient (and precise, above all) can help you to paint a clear picture of the contribution you’ve made to the client’s bottom line.

The team at Digilant, as U.S. based digital media agency with hundreds of clients, was struggling to find the time to bring additional value to data. Here’s how they managed to deliver more value to clients by saving time through automated reporting.

“My clients have slashed their budgets. There’s nothing we can do to increase them.”

Full service agencies are always in a strange position when it comes to budget. They hold and spend budgets on behalf of their clients, but are terrified that they are just one or two conversations away from losing it all. This puts those tasked with running campaigns in a difficult position akin to walking on eggshells. You can see great opportunities to spend that budget, but then worry incessantly if you can show the ROI. Instead, wouldn’t it be nice to have a clear view on objectives, budgets, plans and deliverables that shows this instantly?

What we’ve learnt is that there is always money to be spent by brands on marketing, but they need to trust that their agency will spend it effectively. And the way to do that is by being able to hold the spend accountable and showing them accurate figures from day one in your relationship. Get that right and you won’t worry about losing clients over justifying marketing ROI ever again.

“We’re struggling to understand what works and to get ideas of what to do next.”

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could think of something that no one else had thought of? Imagine how nice it would be to come up with something original that actually worked! What if you were the one who came up with the idea of having Snoop Dogg rap about a food delivery service? We can’t tell you what makes good or bad advertising. However, what we can say is that a good way to begin the process of creating original advertising (that works) is to take a step back, look at what your clients are currently doing, assess what is working and what isn’t.

Having those insights and awareness are surely a great place to start. By being equipped with as much knowledge as possible can only lead you in the right direction. And that’s only really possible nowadays if you listen to the heartbeat of the data standing behind every campaign you release, every ad you put out there.

Anything To Add?

So how are these challenges any different to those an agency faced 100 years ago? You are trying to be relevant, cost effective, trustworthy and innovative. It’s hard!

Our advice? Look at areas of high manual workload that can deliver value, but which are straightforward to offload somewhere else. Then, use the time you’ve saved to do what you do best and really drive value for your clients. And then, double down on that by using your improved data collection to get better insights for your clients.

If we have missed any of the pain points your agency has been facing, feel free to add them in the comments below!

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