Marketing and media professionals have a lower opinion of media agencies than they did two years ago, citing a lack of data-driving insight and confusion around planning as the reasons for a dip towards negativity.
Research from media consultancy ID Comms – which questioned 177 marketing, media and procurement professionals with a combined spend of $20bn – saw clients rate agencies as delivering ‘below expectations’ across all of their core competencies.
The report comes as advertisers place increased scrutiny on media agency practices, including kickbacks and transparency – both issues that have led brands such as Vodafone and Walmart to bring some elements of the media planning and buying process in-house.
Respondents were asked to score agencies on a scale of one to five, where one was unacceptable, three met expectations and five was outstanding.
On the whole, agencies were rated below average by marketing and media professionals on key competencies such as identifying relevant data-fuelled insight and providing neutral and objective planning recommendationsed flags were also raised around the way media partners integrated owned, earned and paid media.
For client-side marketers, agencies scored the lowest when it came to integration with a score of just 2.41. Planning was the next biggest issue with a grade of 2.47. Media professionals rated agencies the lowest of all, citing the same two competencies as being ‘below expectation’.
This compares with higher scores of 2.50, 2.50 and 2.31 respectively in 2017, when ID Comms last conduced the same research.
Agencies were rated highest for the quality of their thought leadership. However, this still fell below expectations.
Predictably, there was a fairly large gap between how advertisers rated media agencies and how media agencies rated themselves. While media agencies consistently rated themselves as meeting expectations across all categories – including planning, integration, innovation and data, advertisers were less effusive.
Despite some small improvements on 2017, advertisers were also rated below expectations in many key areas of media management, most notably the tendency to lead media decisions from a procurement rather than a marketing perspective.
Better news from the study was that procurement attitudes to media were improving, with procurement professionals saying they were more likely to see media as an exciting opportunity and an investment for growth than two years ago.
Procurement professionals also provided the highest average scores for media thinking from agencies (2.97 out of 5, up from 2.77 in 2017). This compares with this year’s average scores of 2.68 and 2.49 for marketing and media professionals respectively.
“At a time when the challenge of media has never been greater, it is disappointing to see that so many marketing and media professionals are struggling to implement media strategies or forge relationships that deliver long-term growth,” said Paul Stringer, consultant at ID Comms.
“What is positive is that we are seeking changing attitudes in procurement and we could be witnessing the emergence of a new kind of procurement leader, one for whom cost reduction is just one part of a larger set of objectives around driving innovation, ROI and business development.”