New Study Sheds Light on the Relationships between Agencies and Marketers

January 19, 2016 AJ Bruno: Founder, President

New study sheds light on the relationship between agencies and marketersNow in its 10th year, the 2016 RSW/US New Year Outlook survey was completed by 165 senior level Marketers and 115 Marketing Agency executives during December, 2015. The goal of the survey was to learn more about the perspectives of marketers and agencies as they each begin 2016. Topics explored included “troubling trends”, spending expectations, shifts across traditional, digital and mobile media, and the influence of procurement in agency selection. In some cases, marketers and agencies are very aligned, in others … not so much.

 Troubling Trends

The survey asked both marketers and agencies to identify “troubling trends” from the other side. Last year, marketers consistently cited concerns about the ability of agencies to truly grasp the digital/data/analytics phenomenon. This concern persists, but several others stood out as well including, agencies that claim to possess capabilities they do not have, a decline in creativity and innovation, as well as cost/value alignment.

Agencies, on the other hand, reported concern about eroding loyalty and trust from marketers. This top concern has grown year over year. In addition, agencies are troubled by the involvement of procurement or other non-traditional buyers, clients who are unwilling to take risks, and the undervaluing of strong creative work.


The austerity mindset, common in both brands and agencies during the last several years, seems to be easing, as both marketers (88%) and agencies (93%) plan to invest somewhat or heavily in their business. Marketers (63% expect spending to increase somewhat or significantly this year, while 48% of agencies felt the same.

Use of Multiple Agencies

One of the most interesting findings of the study is the increase in the number of marketers who use more than one agency.

“Since 2009, we have surveyed Marketers about their agency rosters,” the authors report. “As in past years, Marketers continue to use multiple agencies to support their business. This doesn’t surprise us. What is new in the 2016 New Year Outlook Survey is that for the first time since 2009 more Marketers report using two or more agencies than in prior years. This year, 74% of Marketers reported using two or more agencies to support their business. This is an increase of +12% versus 2015 when 62% of Marketers reported using two or more agencies.”

In addition to the increase in the number of marketers using more than one agency, there also seems to be a trend toward project based work. 52% of Marketers said between 1% and 40% of the work they assigned Agencies in 2015 was project work.

The report underscores the idea that marketers and agencies alike could benefit from more open communication and strategic alignment. In fact, a discussion of the report itself might be a good place to start.  

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