Clients laud improvements to briefing process, but agencies are sceptical

Despite improvements in how integrated campaigns are briefed and managed there is still a worrying gap between how beneficial advertisers and agencies think those changes have been, according to new research from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA).

Tensions between brands and agencies on the pitch and briefing process have been long running, with agencies lamenting an unwillingness to share data, poor briefing, absences during pitches or unreasonable terms.

The WFA survey suggested that while advertisers are happy to claim improvements in their briefing process since the survey was last conducted in 2014, agencies are more sceptical saying there is still a lack of alignment, clarity and timing.

When it comes to clients’ ability to brief for integrated comms, just 12% of brands say they provide separate briefs for each department or agency, down from 24% in 2014.

Meanwhile 44% of clients are now briefing with either a common master brief (including role-specific requirement for each agency) or a single brief for all stakeholders, an improvement from 36% and 40% respectively in 2014.

However, there is still a discrepancy in how much time agencies feel they are being given to work on a brief. Eight in 10 clients believe they ‘always or mostly’ brief well in advance, yet 57% of agencies say they are usually briefed later than they should be.

When it comes to the issue of briefing all departments/agencies ‘at the same time’ 71% of clients claim they do, yet only 24% of those in agencies agree. Rather, they highlight the sporadic nature of this approach with 67% of agencies saying that they are ‘sometimes’ briefed at the same time as other agencies, whist 9% say this never happens.

Perceptions of the quality of briefs are also split. Around three quarters of clients (73%) say they include a single-minded proposition and a single view of the customer in their briefs, this picture is not endorsed by the agencies’ perspective as 76% highlight the sporadic nature (Never/Sometimes) of the inclusion of these critical elements.

Agencies were even more scathing about the lack of a clear integrated customer journey (93% said sometimes/never) or a single view of the customer and a common insight (82% said sometimes/never).

“It would seem global brands are making progress in improving their integrated briefing process. Ultimately integration doesn’t come down to agencies or brands, it comes down to people,” said Robert Dreblow, global head of marketing services at the WFA.

“Strong client leadership coupled with agency collaboration is what’s needed to ensure consistency and improvement in applying these processes.”

The survey, conducted by the WFA in partnership with global marketing management consultancy, The Observatory International, was based on responses from 32 multinational clients across 12 sectors with an annual spend of more than US$14bn. Their responses were compared with those of 46 senior agency staff with global and regional roles to provide an agency view.