Troubling Trends: What the 2016 RSW/US New Year Outlook Survey Found


The 2016 RSW/US New Year Outlook survey was completed by 165 senior level Marketers and 115 Marketing Agency executives during December, 2015.

The 2016 RWS/Us New Year Outlook Report reveals the agency and marketer perspective on the business of advertising and marketing. Topics explored included troubling trends, spending expectations, the consolidation of agency rosters, the expansion of project work, the role of Procurement in the Agency selection process, media vendor rebates, and more.

The Overview:

The marketing and advertising world is changing at an unprecedented pace. Given this, a year ago RSW/US asked for the first time in the history of their New Year Outlook Surveys for each side to identify the most troubling trends (about the other side). The purpose of this question is to generate insight that will help improve relationships between agencies and marketers. An interesting thing about the responses is that to a significant degree, what marketers say is troubling and what agencies say is troubling is nearly in direct conflict with each other.

For example, Marketers want agencies more deeply engaged with the challenges and opportunities facing their brands, companies and industries. At the same time, agencies say marketers are operating in ways that are limiting their ability to go there – wanting the best of both worlds.

“Troubling Trends”-Marketers

A year ago, marketers expressed primary concern over the inability of their agencies to figure out the digital/data/analytics phenomenon. This concern remains, but three other notable areas appeared in Marketer comments as well: agencies claiming to possess capabilities they do not have, a decline in creativity and innovation, and cost/value frustration.

RSW/US sees such anxiety play out on the RSW/AgencySearch side of the business as well. Marketers that come looking for a new agency feel that their existing agency is less proactive and offers creative that has become cookie-cutter or stale, prompting them to consider alternative resources.

Marketers’ more frequently mentioned “troubling trends” about agencies were:

 Claiming to be a full service agency, but lacking expertise

 Shallow understanding of the brand(s), company, industry

 Erosion of value for agency fees

 Decline in innovation

 Sacrificing creativity for technology

 Too quick to downplay the importance of traditional media

 High turnover of key agency staff

 Inability to understand metrics and use data insightfully

 Championing metrics that aren’t business drivers

 Ineffectiveness in integrating across multiple channels

 Outdated business model that is slow and cumbersome; lacking agility

 Weak on strategy

 Poor listening skills

 Cookie-cutter solutions; “recycled ideas”

Implications: Despite pressures that stress Marketer/Agency relationships, marketers have great need for a committed strategic partner in their agency. Agencies that are anxious about their talents and services becoming “commoditized” can avoid that perception by approaching their clients’ business as a strategic partner rather than with a vendor mentality.

Agencies can keep the relationship fresh by making every day feel like the first day of the engagement. Bring wnthusiasm, new ideas, insights and value to your clients with each conversation. Show that enthusiasm by listening to them too! Marketers experience new challenges, stresses – and successes – just like your firm does. Being a good listener shows engagement; it’s also a habit that will promote fresh thinking and ideas.

For the agencies’ more frequently mentioned “troubling trends” about marketers, download the full 45-page report.


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