think differently

Why Agencies Need to Do it Differently


I just finished presenting a webinar to about 100 agencies that was designed to help them understand that they need to start thinking about things differently if they expect to survive long-term.

And it goes a lot further than just doing all the things we’ve told agencies in our Agency of the Future Infographic about being agile & nimble, a partner and not a player, among other things.

It’s because of fundamental shifts in the way marketers are operating that is requiring you to look at the world differently, evaluate opportunities differently, prospect for new business differently, and manage your relationships with marketers differently.


There are four things that are currently forcing agencies to think differently.

And I believe it’s these four things that could be the ultimate demise of agencies that don’t take them seriously and don’t adjust how they operate, how their structured, and how they play with marketers.

The New Seat at the Table

37% of marketers stated in our recent New Year Outlook survey report that they currently have a CIO on staff.  More stunning is the fact that 82% of those marketers stated that their CIO either has “moderate” or “tremendous” influence on things like marketing strategy.

If agencies are going to remain relevant and want a seat at the table with the CIO, they will need to speak their language and will need to partner nicely with them – not dismiss their existence.

Agency “Sampling”

53% of agencies (it was only 46% in 2016) tell us in this same survey that over 40% of the work they picked up last year was project based.

This is something we see a lot of when we prospect for our agency clients.  Smart agencies will look at these opportunities differently and not shun them just because they are project only.

They need to evaluate them like they would a long-term investment, not a short-term gain/loss.  They have to look at the marketer, the marketer’s brand, the company – and determine whether the investment in time and money has the potential to pay dividends long-term.

Those that don’t, or can’t look at it this way may ultimately be left in the dust.

Mi Casa Es Su Casa?

76% of agencies believe that some portion of the work they do for marketers will move in-house.  This compares to 60% last year.  It’s the harsh reality of the market dynamics that agencies will need to adjust to.

The advice and counsel I give agencies is: play nice, offer help and surprise & delight whenever you can.  And bring ideas to the table even if some of what you were doing – the marketer is now doing in-house.

Good partner agencies will heed this advice and build a solid relationship with marketers.


Shiny Object Syndrome

In this year’s survey and in the past two year’s New Year Outlook surveys, both you (the agency) and marketers taking the survey accused the other of “chasing shiny objects.

Regardless of who is the biggest culprit of this behavior, I believe that at the end of the day, agencies need to take ownership of evaluating technology platforms and leading the marketer versus allowing the marketer to take the lead.

If they don’t take some ownership of this phenomena, they could be left in the dust.  In this year’s survey marketers tell us that 44% of them are moving marketing dollars out of traditional marketing platforms, into marketing technology platforms, so hopefully it’s you agencies that are the ones guiding and shaping this move.

If you aren’t, that may prove a problem.

So I know this is a lot to think about, but the cold hard fact is that the way you are operating is changing and you have to adjust if you are going to survive and prosper in a relationship with your marketing client.


Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.