John Little
John Little

New research has found nearly three-quarters of major multinationals are reviewing their ad agency arrangements, looking at whether they have the right mix of agencies and capabilities in their external partners.

"The Future of Agency Rosters", by the World Federation of Advertisers and strategic partner The Observatory International, has found many clients recognise that their agency roster set-ups are not working effectively.

The findings are based on responses from 50 multinational marketers representing a global ad spend of more than $69bn.

John Little, regional managing partner for The Observatory, says that marketers are increasingly "time-starved" and faced with more demands with dwindling resources.

Managing multiple agencies, he says, is complex and time-consuming, which is driving a desire for simplification. Marketers, says Little, are also looking for agency partners who understand customer journeys.

John Little
John Little

So if this is a global trend, what effect is it having on SA network agencies?

It seems local operations are slightly ahead of the game. "SA network agencies have been moving towards more flexible and agile models for a while now," says Little. "The most recent example, globally and locally, is Ogilvy returning to its 1948 roots as one Ogilvy, which it describes as ‘one doorway to a creative network’. Locally, the 20 operating companies have been collapsed into a single entity. Similar efforts are being undertaken by Publicis, FCB and TBWA.

"The benefits to clients are a simplified engagement model, greater consistency in thinking and execution, as well as faster response times. And, maybe, reduced fees."

Tools and collaboration

The survey says agencies feel clients do not provide them with the right tools to deliver results. In addition, collaboration can be hindered by internal structures, poor quality briefings, approvals and sign-off processes, a lack of trained client personnel, and a lack of a clear data strategy.

But nearly 50% of respondents recognised that their own internal structures may be an encumbrance. It’s the skills issue, particularly in SA and on the digital front, that is of concern to agencies and their clients alike.

Little says the survey confirms there are skills issues on both sides of the fence. "For agencies this is particularly so in data analysis and insights, customer-journey understanding and some of the specifics of digital. But it is far more than just skills. It is about the appropriate application of those skills and that brings us back to structure, integration and collaboration."

Roel de Vries, global head of marketing, communications & brand strategy at Nissan, agrees: "We are dealing with a fundamental shift in the way consumers behave and how they access media.

"Advertisers need to take the lead in developing a new kind of partnership if they want to achieve one-to-one marketing at scale. That requires new skills, but also involves working closely with their agencies."