If you could offer one piece of advice to your advertising agency what would it be?

New analysis of chief marketers’ Attitudes on Agencies released at 4A’s Transformation 2010 Conference

In January 2010, Ad-ology Research conducted a survey of  chief marketing professionals to study their attitudes about the outsides agencies they employ and to forecast their marketing and advertising plans for 2010.

Among the survey questions asked, “If you could offer one piece of advice to advertising/marketing agencies in general, what would it be”  Here are some of the responses from among 327 chief marketing professionals:

  • Try to become more knowledgeable about the product category than your client.
  • Talk less and listen more.
  • Do a better job with the upfront strategic messaging part.
  • Act as a partner, not only a provider.
  • Know our markets.
  • Know our industry and be willing to offer suggestions not previously considered.
  • Social media knowledge is a must.
  • Simply respond in a timely and professional manner.
  • Do not add too many layers between the client and the creative folks.
  • Be good to your employees – there is way too much turnover.
  • Make sure you have the required expertise in the industry that you are selling to.
  • Talk in plain language and not technical jargon.
  • Hire people based on their passion and work, not just based on the education they have, creativity cannot be taught.
  • Be excited and treat each opportunity with a fresh look.
  • Come work for the company you are representing for a week to get a feel for our values and goals.
  • Concentrate more on ROI.
  • Get Creative! Partner with us – don’t position yourself as the “parent” and we’re the “child.”
  • Over communicate.
  • Be nice.

Other key findings:

  • 19% of companies with marketing budgets less than $1 million say they do not use social media, 34% say the same for online video.
  • Companies with marketing budgets more than $1 million are more likely to have mandates to improve customer insight and retention.
  • Fifty percent of those surveyed plan increased marketing budgets in 2010 versus 2009, with social media, online advertising and online video expected to see the greatest spending increases.
  • After cost, marketers tend to choose agencies based on creative capability and quality of previous work.

“There are three deadly account service sins for advertising agencies: Inadequate communication, relying on the clients for industry insights and not listening,” said C. Lee Smith, president and CEO of Ad-ology Research.

Additional articles that may be of interest:


About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Michael, thank you for posting this. Some of it just validates what many of us know and have forgotten. When we work on deadline and respond to clients we tend to become reactionary – it’s hard to be otherwise when there are so many demands. But, squarely put the advice out of this survey are key to a successful business. No doubt social media can help in many of these areas too. Love it. Always love reading your posts.

  2. Thanks Rico. Very much appreciated.

  3. Another thought for the list –
    Hire some talent outside the agency ranks.

    Client-side marketers know what it takes to move a great agency idea from concept to approval by the C-levels in an organization. Having a partner on the agency side with client side experience will help both sides talk the same language and move the overall business forward.

  4. Good point Lura. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Most of these responses provide me insight about the state of the industry as it is today.

    Many of these are concerned with “us” (the advertising agency and the client) instead of “them” (the one with the wallet and who will purchase from the client).

    When our attention is on ourselves, we’re not focused on the marketplace and the consumer. THAT’S what’s important.

    Responses that are about who we hire, how we relate to the client, how we treat our employees, what our corporate culture and values are — it’s pure and simple navel gazing!

    More than anything, the one piece of advice I’d offer is this: “Don’t be nice. Be Effective!” Get results by making sure that my customers get my message. Understand that consumers have many choices and tools available to tune us out. Don’t shove, don’t explain, don’t invade. Instead entertain, invite, entice — make it irresistible for consumers to tune us IN.

  6. Although taking a client perspective only (mostly), this research piece does does provide a baseline on where agencies are and what they need to focus on if they are to service clients better.

    I recently published a Marketing and Media trends article covering some of the same issues, but which also gives a few pointers on what challenges clients are facing.

    Feel free to have a look and comment.


  7. Thanks for the additional insight Morten.

  8. The best advice I could offer (from our experience working with ad agencies) is find a good programmer/web developer resource. You will find has mobile, social media and tech in general continues to boom more and more projects will be web/mobile related, with a strong need for custom development.

    Sure not all your clients will have programming related needs but the % of them will/should be growing.

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