The Case for Agencies by Today’s Biggest Brand Marketers & Agency CEOs

While U.S. agency and digital revenue increased again in 2016, according to Ad Age’s new Agency Report 2017, the pace is slowing – in fact, it’s the slowest it’s been since 2013. Today consultancies, entering the space by way of mergers, acquisitions and expanded service sets, are competing for the same marketing dollars from clients. A recent Forrester survey found 73% of marketers are open to using consultancies for digital marketing work, including 14% who said they were “very open.” And for the first time ever, four consultancies have cracked Ad Age’s ranking of the 10 largest agency companies in the world – whereas IBM iX was the first just two years ago.

Thrilled by the feedback we got on our recent blog “As Agencies and Consultancies Go Head-To-Head, Modern Agencies Will Win” we’ve decided to continue the conversation with insight from a few experts. The world’s top agency CEOs are speaking out about the agency advantage, as well as many of the industry’s biggest and most respected brand marketers.

Take a look at what they had to say:

Ivan Pollard, Senior Vice President of Strategic Marketing, Coca-Cola Co. –­

“The big consultancies are underestimating the value of creativity [and] the agencies are under- exploiting the value of business analytics. Someone’s going to crack that soon because data plus creativity is the future.”

Andrew Swinand, CEO, Leo Burnett North America –­

“I don’t see my competition as WPP and Omnicom. I see my competition as the consultancies…how do we as a creative entity better and faster integrate consumer insight and data, versus how quickly can the consultancies continue to acquire creative agencies to try to reposition their offering.”

Penry Price, Vice President of Marketing Solutions, Linkedin –­

“Brand awareness is not enough today; you need to also create a great customer experience. Marketers have realized this and are now using data to see what entices customers and what doesn’t. For agencies, this means embracing the data-driven approach consultants have long championed…But agencies have an opportunity to reinvent themselves, and doing so could open up new lines of business. For this to happen, they need to think more like consultants and offer a wide array of technical solutions. That way, they can ward off the consulting firms encroaching on their turf.”

Chris Carmichael, Former HSBC Global Media Chief and Senior Hewlett-Packard Marketer –

“I don’t believe that the creative element of marketing/advertising is really what they’re after. They can’t compete as ‘Mad Men’ just yet, but they definitely look at the industry and see a huge opportunity to compete as ‘Math Men’. The big thing they offer is trust. A ‘big four’ accounting firm comes with a lot of trust attached to the name. The data, analysis and strategy part of the industry is something they already have a point of view on, so why wouldn’t they commercialise that?”

Aaron Shapiro, CEO, Huge – 

“Consulting firms lack the creative and entrepreneurial culture that attracts the best design, digital and creative talent. Those that do join quickly find out they’re not in an environment where they’re able to do great work; they’re not in a place where great work is even appreciated.”

Yannick Bolloré, Chairman and Chief Executive, Havas Group –­

“Honestly, I do not think we are working in the same industry. I have spent a lot of time with consultants from Accenture and other companies. They are smart people, much smarter than me, but they approach [client challenges] from a different angle. They look at corporate strategy, and group strategy, and our mission in advertising is to understand the consumer journey. We are much more about culture and consumers, than corporate strategy.”

Recommended Reading & Next Steps

Download The Agency’s Guide to Earning a Seat with the C-Suite to learn how to build more strategic relationships, presenting your agency the opportunity to offer consultancy-like services to better compete in today’s marketplace. You’ll also get our 5 recommended sets of questions to kick off every client engagement, that will result in earning your agency more opportunity and money in the long-run.