Despite Budget Shift to Digital, Most Marketers Want Full-Svc Agencies

June 15, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

Agency Business | Digital | Social Media | Trade Shows & Events

rswus-marketers-use-of-digital-agencies-june2012.pngMarketers may be shifting their advertising budgets to digital media, but 3 in 4 aren’t using exclusively digital agencies for their social or digital needs, and the majority of those don’t foresee using them in the near future, according to June 2012 survey results from RSW/US. In fact, only about 2 in 5 think such agencies can survive, with the remainder believing that digital agencies need to offer more traditional services to maintain their relevancy.

Digital Agencies Perceived As Not Much Better

One of the reasons marketers may not be moving to exclusively digital agencies is that they simply don’t see them as being much better at their core service than traditional agencies. When asked to rate traditional full-service firms (not their specific agencies) on a 10-point scale in terms of digital marketing and advertising skills, 64% of the marketers surveyed gave them a score of at least 6. By comparison, digital-only agencies only scored 2% points higher, with 66% of the marketers rating their digital skills as a 6 or above.

Even so, a larger proportion of marketers gave digital-only agencies a top-3 box score than did so for traditional full-service firms (33% vs. 23%). Neither of these perceptions have moved much from 2009, when they stood at 30% and 22%, respectively.

Full-Service Firms to Win Biz From Digital Counterparts

Data from RSW/US’ “2009-2012 Changes in Digital/Social Media” indicates that when marketers think about likely scenarios in the next 3-5 years when full-service and digital-only firms are pitted against each other, 47% believe that full-service firms will win more digital assignments, compared to 31% who believe digital firms will win more full-service Agency of Record assignments.

Despite this belief, the trend appears to be moving slightly towards digital agencies: in 2009, 50% of marketers believed that full-service firms would win more digital assignments, and 28% believed digital firms would win more full-service assignments. That 22% point gap in sentiment has now narrowed to 16% points.

Marketers Not Using Strategic Counsel Being Offered

Interestingly, although 76% of agency respondents say they are selling strategic digital counsel, just 16% of marketers say they are using the counsel that agencies are giving them. This is surprising, given CMO Council survey results from January indicating that when reviewing and evaluating agency relationships, the most common consideration among multi-national client marketers is strategic contributions (57%). A simple explanation (beyond differences in the sample base and nature of agency services examined) offered by RSW/US is that marketers are not finding agencies as effective as they should be in helping them get to a better place in the digital space. This is supported by March research from DataXu, which found marketers twice as likely to disagree than agree that their agency of record has played an important role in improving their digital marketing efforts (37% vs. 18%).

Other Findings:

  • Among agency respondents, the most common barriers cited for selling social media services are concerns about control (55%), the client being unsure of who is responsible at the company (45%), and legal concerns (45%). 28% also indicated C-suite reluctance to be a hindrance, double the proportion who cited that concern in 2009. This particular concern should begin to abate, at least according to McKinsey survey results that show 52% of C-suite executives saying that digital marketing and social tools are at least a top 10 corporate priority.
  • 87% of agencies are now using social media as part of their new business outreach, up from 68% in 2011 and 58% in 2010.
  • LinkedIn is by far the most helpful social platform for generating new business, cited by 79% of agency respondents. Facebook and Twitter are seen as helpful by 48% and 47%, respectively.
  • Despite most agencies using social media to help generate new business, just 17% say that it is very effective for this purpose (a top-3 box score), compared to 29% who say it is not at all effective (a bottom-3 box score).
  • A slight majority of marketers say they learn about new agencies through friends and co-workers. Other popular ways to learn about new agencies are through agency emails and newsletters (44%) and conferences and trade shows (38%).

About the Data: The RSW/US survey was completed by 112 senior level marketers and 118 agency principals from agencies of different types/sizes during May 2012.

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