Digiday Research: 22% of marketers plan to give agency work to consultancies

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

Beware, ad agencies.

In a poll of 73 client-side marketers who are responsible for their company’s work and relationship with agencies, 22% said they were planning shifting work from traditional agencies to consulting firms. Overall the majority, 52% of marketers, are still keeping their work with agencies while 26% are unsure of what they will do.

For marketers making the switch, cost efficiencies and performance were common reasons why. One marketer giving work to consulting firms said, “I’ve found that agencies often want to drive control over a project, and they end up being more expensive.”

Antiquated operational workflows within agencies are also a key source of marketers’ frustration.

“Most agencies are working off an old model of big overhead, a lot of bureaucracy and process, and loose KPI’s which they often miss,” one respondent said.

But if consultancies want to win over more clients, rather just rely on the pitfalls of agencies, they need to win the battle of perception first. Marketers sticking with their agencies frequently cited stereotyped images of consultancies barking orders without getting their hands dirty.

“Consultancies can’t actually do the marketing work,” said one respondent. “They just tell us that work needs to be done.”

Another survey taker justified avoiding consulting firms by saying, “Consultancies just provide strategic counseling, agencies can at minimum deliver executional work.”

Companies are also holding onto their agencies because “creativity matters,” according to a fifth respondent. Even as agencies take over work like media-buying that was previously thought to be off-limits to them, creative work hasn’t been associated with a consulting firm’s strengths. However, as Accenture’s acquisition of Droga5, one of the last major independent creative shops, points out, consulting firms are coming for it.

Meanwhile, consulting firms, like agencies, must also contend with the growing trend of marketers bringing work in-house. Several marketers said that they would rather build marketing functions in-house than move work from an agency to a consultancy. “We have more to gain by developing in-house capabilities for work done by agencies. Consulting agencies are more or less similar to the agency,” said one marketer.


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