Agency perceptions 2023

What marketers want from their agency partners.

In a follow-up to our popular 2021 Agency Perceptions Survey, NZ Marketing has again partnered with insights agency TRA to survey a diverse selection of senior marketing professionals to get a better understanding of their needs when it comes to creative and media agency partnerships.

The industry-wide survey provides both marketers and agency reps insight into the nature of their working relationship(s); identifies challenges, strengths and weaknesses, and assesses how agencies can best respond to these. It also probes budget allocation and spend, outsourcing versus insourcing, and what the future of marketing holds for agency-client relationships when it comes to emerging marketing trends.

What follows is a presentation of the February 2023 survey results.

The rise of the big think

For a while, 2023 looked like the year where we were all going to reset and look ahead. Then the weather had its say in January and February and there’s the looming prospect of a recession, but marketers are seeing past those to look ahead and plan.

So, what does that mean for agencies? Well, it means a focus on the big picture. The main priority for the top marketers we spoke to is agencies that bring strategic thinking to the relationship. This has always been high on the list of priorities, but 2023 sees it stand alone.

This isn’t just marketers thinking this, they’re also backing this up with actions. Marketers are increasingly describing their relationship with their agencies as strategic and they’re looking for a lead agency who has a deep understanding of their business.

But there’s a delivery gap

While marketers are describing their relationships as strategic and really wanting their agencies to bring the big thinking, the delivery of agencies on this are falling short of their expectations. Only one in five feel that their agencies deliver very well on strategic thinking.

This delivery gap is driven by agencies not being perceived to have a deep understanding of their client’s business. This is fundamental to making sure that the big thinking is going to be practical and relevant.

Thinking big, but looking forward

There’s a lot happening in marketing at the moment, from the exponential growth of Generative AI to the ever-looming cookie-less world, big things are happening.

Unsurprisingly, marketers are really wanting their agencies to lead them, and be leaders, in keeping up with what’s happening and how it will impact their business.

The trend that marketers think will most impact them over the next two years is the merging of online and offline marketing, really the holy grail of driving sales through the entire marketing funnel. Two thirds of marketers think this will be a defining trend of the next two years.

Outside of this, social media is seen as continuing its rise in importance but so is sustainability and showing a meaningful commitment to it.

The two big marketing tech trends of the last year or so, Generative AI and the loss of third party data, round out the top five trends. Marketers will be looking to their lead agency to handle this rather than looking for specialists. However, these aren’t universal, with only four in ten of marketers thinking it will impact them.

It’s been a turbulent time

We can all sympathise that the last few years have been full of upheaval. This has been felt in the marketing world with more than two thirds of marketing departments having undergone an internal restructure, which has had a material impact on the way that marketers are working with their agencies. This has meant that agencies can end up with more knowledge about their client’s business than some of the client’s staff and has precipitated the rise in more strategic relationships. Agencies haven’t been immune to these changes, where four in ten marketers say that their agency has gone through a restructure.

The glass is half full

Only a third of organisations are forecasting a decline in sales in 2023, hoping that the efforts of the Reserve Bank will be enough to halt inflation without creating a prolonged recession. As a result, most marketers are keeping their external budgets the same, with a quarter potentially paying attention to the body of evidence that suggests recessionary times are times for increased marketing budgets to build up future demand.

Audience breakdown

The survey data provided is based on responses from 42 leading marketing professionals drawn from a variety of industries, with retail (23 percent), manufacturing (13 percent), and utilities (10 percent) being the most represented. The majority of respondents identified their positions as senior-level (57 percent), followed by director or C-level (33 percent). Mid-level professionals represented 10 percent of the audience. Over three quarters of the companies represented had a turnover of over $50 million (77 percent), while 10 percent of the companies had a turnover of less than $10 million. Fourteen percent represent companies in the $25m – $50m band. 

This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

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