One feature I particularly like about our surveys are the open-ended comments we include from marketers, and in our most recent report, we included 4 pages of comments from Marketers, all of which highlighted the ever fickle Marketer-Agency relationship.

in the survey, Adweek provided us with the following question:

What amount of an agency’s business must be focused on an industry to consider it a specialist in that industry?

 (You may want some aspirin and/or a stiff drink prior to reading the rest of the post.)

Picking a few answers from marketers we surveyed at random (marketer answers in italics):

Must understand the business in general and the direction and issues facing it. Okay, fair enough, an agency needs to do this, no doubt.

Strategically understanding the industry to know how to place limited dollars. So specialization does seem necessary to get the business.

I don’t have time to train beginners in all the complexities. Okay, we get it. Specialization-need it.

Strategy should cross specialties. Ah, so, agencies need to be proficient in more than one specialty then?

More important to get ideas across industries than within an industry. Got it, don’t necessarily need to be a specialist.

Creativity is transferable between industries. I see too many companies in our vertical stuck in the same ideas year after year. Well, you, um, seem to change your mind a lot.

Being smart and creative is most important. . . . . . A minute ago you wanted a specialist. 

Marketer-Agency Relationship

Marketer-Agency Relationship-Fickle Indeed

Alright, having a little fun at the Marketer’s expense, bless their hearts.

I know your head actually didn’t explode with any of these comments, because you live this daily in pitches and with clients.

This is the standard “pick your battle” situation, as I try to tell my young children.


This is actually the marketer quote I like best:

The media landscape is changing so quickly in both B2C and B2B. In the past, I considered it more important to have industry experience, however, I think now it is more important to have a broader experience, across different mediums (traditional, digital, social) and the creativity to know how to use each to optimize ROI. They can learn about the industry, but knowing these new mediums and how to deploy them strategically and cost effectively, is extremely important.

Makes sense.

There are certain industries, like med device or pharma for example, that as an agency, you’re going to need a certain level of expertise.

But the agencies in for a tough road are either: 1) so laser focused in one ultra-specific area that it becomes similar to the client that accounts for 75% of your business and you pray they don’t ever leave


2) Those  agencies that are spread across so many sectors, trying to be all things to all clients, that they don’t really know who they are.

As in life, find the balance. Better yet, be the circuit breaker. (See below)

Creative Circuit Breaker

I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.