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Recent research has found that 4 in 10 marketing professionals are looking into bringing their creative and digital media in-house in order to save money. Among those companies continuing to use agencies, a new survey [download page] of more than 350 marketing leaders from the CMO Council and Worldwide Partners found that only 17% feel their operational models and agency engagement models are aligned across structure, strategy and execution.

This doesn’t necessarily come at the best time for agencies, as the percentage of brands that have in-housed agency functions has almost doubled in a decade. But on what might be seen as the bright side, almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents to the CMO Council’s study did say their models and that of their agency were at least partially aligned.

Given a highly variable CMO tenure length, at least part of the responsibility for creating better alignment between marketers and agencies needs to be in the lap of senior marketers. What do they need to do to reinvent the relationship between their brand and their agency partners?

Communication is one very important way to create alignment. Two-thirds (65%) of respondents said that one of the top 3 ways to help their relationship with agency partners to evolve is to clearly communicate their expectations and needs, while a smaller number (34%) said that hosting ongoing dialogues with partners to ensure alignment as strategies evolve and grow was among their top 3 responsibilities. Part of that communication means establishing business metrics and clear measures of success (63% selecting among top-3) as well as establishing performance expectations and thresholds (41%).

One of the main concerns among CMOs this year is data privacy and transparency, and making sure they meet the expectation of their customers. This greater emphasis on transparency has prompted 2 in 5 (44% of) marketing leaders to say that one of their top three ways of improving their relationship and alignment with agency partners is to hold both organizations responsible for this transparency.

Marketers have expectations of agencies as well. To ensure agencies are better aligned with and support marketing operational goals, almost half (46%) of respondents said agencies need to improve collaboration and cooperation across the partner landscape. Marketers also feel that agencies need to have the ability to scale and move quickly as their business evolves (43%).

On this point of moving quickly, agencies can also benefit from positioning their skill sets and expertise. Marketers acknowledge that they are suffering from a deficit of certain skills, and this study shows that CMOs want agencies to provide a solution. Some 4 in 10 respondents believe that agencies should supply easy access to more diverse skills and capabilities, with the same proportion (41%) noting that one of the main drivers to shifting resources externally is the lack of internal specialized talent.

About the Data: The report is based on findings from a survey of more than 350 global marketing leaders with 52% being from B2B-focused companies and half from companies with more than $500 million in annual revenues.

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