Marketing Agency Culture Brand Strategy

With tough times around the corner, what should marketing leaders focus on first?


By Sam Anderson | Network Editor

September 30, 2022 | 6 min read

You don’t need us to tell you: right now, every news item (indeed every conversation) seems to portend that tough times are ahead. We asked four leaders from The Drum Network, who between them have weathered some storms, what one thing leaders should focus on.

A game of Jenga

As difficult economic headwinds intensify, what should marketing leaders be focused on? / Michał Parzuchowski via Unsplash

Ben Wood, advertising and consulting director, Hallam

Sensible businesses will be scrutinizing outgoings now more than ever. With clients looking to claw back profits eroded by spiralling inflation, marketing investment (not to mention your fees) will be up for debate, whether you like it or not.

Frustratingly, validating the success of marketing investments is becoming more difficult. We’re facing an attribution crisis, and many marketers are struggling to prove the value of each channel or campaign due to the numerous challenges brought about by increased privacy constraints, loss of data associated with Apple’s IDFA update, and impending deprecation of third-party cookies.

If I had one piece of advice for agencies it would be to double down on reporting and attribution. We have a responsibility to our clients to guide marketing investment decisions through this economic crisis – and provide them with the data required to make smarter budgeting decisions. Are you able to report on the metrics that really matter to each of your clients? Are you able to present attribution models beyond ‘last-click’? If the answer is no, then you will have a huge battle to retain client revenue. Solve this, and you'll prove a valued partner to your clients in a time of economic crisis.

James Glick, chief operating officer, Assembly, Europe

The best thing we have done is to take a united stance in times of crises. When our people are supported, we can all move through difficult times together. We know that ‘rough seas make better sailors’ and only have to look at the extraordinary effort and results that we collectively achieved as a team during the pandemic.

With the current climate (including the cost-of-living crisis), we turn inward and lean on our culture at Assembly. We’re proud to have cultivated a hybrid working environment that continually supports the well-being of our people, both in the immediate and longer term. This in turn fosters trust and better collaboration that extends far into our client and partner relationships.

Christine Shoaf, executive vice president, global business lead, Momentum Worldwide

The first thing is always people: what do we need to do to keep our staff healthy and with us. This can be changing our investment priorities or bringing forward back-burner projects. It all depends on what the actual crisis is.

Once that plan is in place, we attack those ideas or changes we all have that we will get to ‘as soon as.’ Innovation is often born of challenging times. When Covid shut the world down, we built a virtual conference center in four months so that our clients could continue to host their clients and customers in a way that was not a webinar. It was something we had talked about a lot, and then we had a reason to do it.

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Richard Temple, chief executive officer, John Ayling & Associates

This isn’t our first rodeo when it comes to financial uncertainty. JAA was founded in 1978, so we’ve navigated our way through a few recessions, pandemics and media market evolution. We’d advise any client that planning and preparedness is key to managing any crisis.

As part of the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Rapid Response Network, we understand the importance of speed and responsiveness to an immediate crisis: be available and ready to mobilize with a tried-and-tested team and plan in place. We saw this again with the passing of the Queen; having a comprehensive understanding of how a situation may evolve empowers clients and agency leaders to make sound and timely decisions. Most important though are your people. A steady hand on the tiller with the reassurance that we’ve weathered many a storm before and come out stronger.

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