Survey Tracks Changing Relationships Between Marketers and Agencies
SoDA, the Global Society for Digital Marketing innovators, has released the 2014 edition of The SoDA Report. The report includes its annual Digital Marketing Outlook survey of the changes taking place within digital marketing agencies and their clients.
The findings reveal key shifts in marketer/agency relationships, weaknesses in advertiser expertise, and mismatches between what advertisers and agencies believe are most valuable to clients.
There are also startling perception differences over clients’ attempts to transform their businesses, and disconnects over why clients walk away from agencies.
The research also highlights steep learning curves inside agencies when it comes to acting on data insights, as well as using digital information to propel deeper personalization. As clients increase investment, agencies need to stay ahead in data, mobile and product innovation.
Conducted in partnership with Econsultancy, Digital Marketing Outlook is based on a global sample, evenly split between advertisers and agencies, which represent a total annual marketing spend of $25.4 billion. In total there were 736 respondents, the large majority being senior company decision-makers.Slightly more than one-third (36%) of the respondents were based in North America; 22% were in Europe, and 21% were based in Asia-Pacific nations. Executives with global responsibilities contributed 11% and the rest came from South America and Africa.
After years of dramatic growth, half the marketers surveyed are keeping digital marketing budgets level in 2014 (up from a third in 2013). However, there was a notable rise in spend on non-marketing related initiatives, including data, mobile and product innovation, with one in three clients increasing budgets in these areas.
- Nearly 70% of clients believe being seen as an early adopter is key or important to their brand position.
- Clients are increasingly seeking specialized digital services from agencies rather than looking for the traditional agency of record (AOR) agreement. This is in part recognition of the amount of digital work now carried out in-house.
- Agencies believe advertisers still lack digital talent, with 50% or more highlighting gaps in paid-, earned- and owned-media strategy and execution as well as user experience and product innovation.
- User experience was identified as the biggest gap on the client side with 77% of agency respondents citing it as a weakness.
- The number of advertisers working with zero agencies has risen for the second successive year, with 13% managing the process in-house (slightly up on 2013).
- The number of agency leaders concerned about off-shoring jumped almost 10%, up from 22% in 2013 to 31% in 2014.
- The number of agency leaders identifying commoditization of digital product work as a serious problem rose 9% on last year.
- 86% of respondents said the best route to future growth was product and platform creation – up 3% on 2013.
Disparities – What Clients Want
While all agreed marketing creativity was most important, clients rated product and service innovation second, while agencies rated it fourth in importance. Agencies rated customer-centered marketing for clients third, while clients scored it fifth in terms of priority.
Over 60% of clients felt their digital agency was excellent or good at evaluating digital trends for practical use. However, nearly one in three agency respondents (29%) do not offer any training on current or emerging trends and technologies, a missed opportunity to increase revenue and for clients to capitalize on the changes.
Why Clients Leave
The number one reason for clients walking away was outgrowing their agency’s ability to deliver against their needs (27%). Agencies overwhelmingly pointed to new client management as the number one reason (39%). Agency respondents ranked failure to deliver for clients’ growing needs a distant fourth, a major discrepancy. The specific service areas clients cited the most for termination was dissatisfaction with strategy (11%). Few agencies (6%) viewed this as the root problem.
The outlook is bright for agencies that offer the services clients need. Successful agencies saw more buy-in from clients, with growth in retainer- based work (up 21%) and a significant rise in agency investments (up 28%). Agencies that have invested in incubators – 50% of respondents – reported great success with talent retention and new business wins both up.
Other Areas of Difference
Agencies are more pessimistic about the future of AOR relationships than clients. While 57% of agencies believe AOR relationships are disappearing, half (49%) of clients believe that is the case.
Chris Buettner, SoDA executive director and managing editor of The SoDA Report, said: “Clients are doing more digital in-house than ever. But increasing levels of sophistication and elaborate in-house digital teams do not have to translate into diminished revenue for digital agencies. The opportunity is in data, mobile and product innovation – areas of high demand.
“Digital agencies that provide the core value trinity: creative marketing, innovation, and expertise in emerging trends and opportunities, can more deeply embed themselves in internal client teams, build stronger digital expertise across marketing and customer experience, and continue to prosper in 2014 and 2015.”
The SoDA Report is one of the most widely-read publications in the digital marketing industry, with over 250,000 downloads in 2013.
In addition to the SoDA/Econsultancy Digital Marketing Outlook Survey, the report also includes original articles by the industry’s finest minds, exclusive interviews with thought leaders, as well as case studies of the world’s best digital marketing campaigns.
Reports Provide Insights on Digital Marketing Careers
Do you aspire to a career in the red-hot, fast-morphing field of digital marketing? If so, where in the digital-marketing ecosystem would you feel most excited about working?
Two wildly different resources from SoDA and The Creative Group can help creative pros better understand whether they would prefer to remain as independent contractors or strive to seek employment with a company marketing department, agency, or digital production company. Neither report was intended strictly as a “career guide” yet each provides insights that can help you choose a path that might make more sense for you.
The 2013 SoDA Report: Digital Marketing Outlook
The Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) is an international association that that provides a forum for digital marketing leaders to share issues unique to today’s new generation of advertising. The organization’s members include 70 top digital agencies and production companies that have offices in 22 countries on five continents. Their latest report, released February 28, 2013, integrates the results of a Digital Marketing Outlook (DMO) Survey with dozens of articles, interviews, and case studies on topics such as agency ecosystems, innovation, experience design, agile marketing, and the rise of the marketing technologist.
Reading all 238 pages of the SoDA Report can give you insights into the types of people you will be working with in digital marketing. You will see how the client/agency relationship is evolving in a world in which there have never been so many different marketing channels and methods of gaining insight into customers.
The report is brimming with buzzwords such as engagement, micro-segmentation, humanizing data, complex personalization, and the psycho-dynamics of experience design.
You will also get a sense of how disjointed and unsettled the digital marketing world seems to be. One observer finds it exciting that “things are always changing, so that what was an accepted practice one week can seem outdated the next.” Another observer contends that marketers must abandon certain tactics because audiences can tell when they’re being scammed: “The world of marketing has moved to a place where authenticity and doing good work matters.”
The articles were written by SoDA members and guest contributors including CMOs, editors, and senior executives from organizations such as General Mills, Adobe, Dollar Shave Club, Marketing Week, The Art Directors Club, and Econsultancy. The case studies showcase innovative work SoDA members have done on behalf of international brands such as Google, Avis, Coca Cola, Barneys, Nike, Fox, Samsung, Icon Fitness, Unilever, Intel, and Cisco.
The Digital Marketing Outlook Survey featured in the 2013 SoDA Report is based on responses from 814 digital marketing professionals who work at digital agencies, full-service agencies with digital capabilities, digital-production studios, consulting firms, and consumer brand and B2B marketing organizations.
Only 11 percent of clients rely on a lead agency to handle all traditional and digital assignments. More than 50 percent either use a mix of highly specialized digital agencies (search, mobile, social) or a mix of full-service and highly specialized digital agencies.
The survey found that many clients are “insourcing” the set-up and maintenance of currently existing digital services while relying on agencies for highly specialized or innovative services. About 40 percent of the agency respondents have set up innovation labs and incubators. The survey also found that nearly one-third of agency respondents are providing education and training services to clients who have developed internal groups for digital production and maintenance.
When it comes to hiring and retaining talented people, agencies understand that money isn’t always the decisive factor. In terms of job satisfaction, employees rated the following factors as very important:
- Interesting Work (76 percent)
- Culture (75 percent)
- Good Work-Life Balance (62 percent)
- Salary/Flexibility (50 percent)
“We believe the 2013 SoDA Report will provoke meaningful dialogue about where the industry is headed,” said SoDA Executive Director Chris Buettner. A free iPad version of The SoDA Report is currently available for download from iTunes. A free PDF copy can be downloaded through Slideshare and at other sites. Additional tablet and web-browser versions are being developed (of course!).
The SoDA Report: 1H 2013 Digital Marketing Outlook
The Creative Group Infographic on The Future of Freelancing
If you have in-demand creative or technology skills, maybe you would prefer pursuing project work as an independent freelance professional instead of aligning yourself with a single employer. The Creative Group (TCG) specializes in placing a range of highly skilled interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms on a project and full-time basis.
“Many companies are strategically supplementing their advertising and marketing teams with freelance professionals,” said Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group. “This approach allows employers to quickly get the support they need and access skills that might not be available internally. In many cases, project professionals are able to impart their specialized knowledge to a company’s internal staff.”
A recent survey by The Creative Group suggests that the freelance talent pool has grown stronger. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of advertising and marketing executives interviewed by The Creative Group said the caliber of independent creative professionals has increased in the last five years. Among those, nearly one-third (31 percent) said it has increased significantly. Respondents cited “access to specialized skills or knowledge” as the greatest benefit of using freelancers.
The research included more than 500 telephone interviews — approximately 375 with marketing executives randomly selected from companies with 100 or more employees and 125 with advertising executives randomly selected from agencies with 20 or more employees.
The research also showed that contract work is an attractive option for many people in the creative industry: Nearly half (49 percent) of advertising and marketing executives said it’s likely they would work as independent professionals at some point in their career.
“Freelancing jobs can pay well and provide greater flexibility and variety of work,” Farrugia said. “We’re seeing more professionals with in-demand skills pursue project work. And if you partner with a specialized staffing firm, its representatives can market your services and manage the administrative side of your business, such as billing and collections.”
The Creative Group published the results of the research in the form of an infographic. Along with various statistics, the infographic includes four questions that can help you decide whether or not you would be a good candidate for freelance work:
1. Do you prefer consistency or constant change?
2. Do you consider yourself a team player?
3. Can you perform under pressure?
4. Are you comfortable tooting your own horn?
As a freelancer, you must be able to market yourself, work well within a variety of different work cultures and organizations, and understand that freelancers are usually called in during peak work periods when the deadlines are tight.
Future of Freelancing Infographic: The Creative Group