Senior marketers feel let down by agencies amid Covid-19 pressure

Oct 21, 2020 | Online advertising, Skills

Senior marketers feel let down by agencies amid Covid-19 pressure
Senior marketers feel “let down by their agencies” at a time when they need them the most. New research reveals two-fifths believe agencies don’t act in the organisation’s best interests, and a quarter think agencies don’t understand their objectives.

The study, from alan, the recently-rebranded marketing agency arm of Raconteur quizzed 600 senior marketers (CMO or equivalent) across the UK and Ireland. The results revealed that two fifths (42%) believe that their agency partners don’t act in the organisation’s best interests, one in four (26%) don’t think their agencies understand their objectives, and a third (31%) feel that they don’t get value for money.

Key findings

• 42% of senior marketers don’t think agencies act in the organisation’s best interests
• Almost a third (31%) don’t think they get value for money
• Yet, 71% of marketers expected to do more with less following budget cuts

Managing agencies takes strong digital understanding

The findings come at a time when senior marketers are under immense pressure, following budget cuts (experienced by 53%), headcount reductions (43%), and generally having to achieve more with less (71%). Two fifths (40%) of marketers feel less secure in their role compared to six months ago, while over two thirds (68%) say it is more important than ever that they prove return on investment (ROI) of marketing activities.

Yet, despite these challenges, there are significant opportunities for agencies to show their clients what they are capable of. Covid-19 has accelerated the shift from offline to online, according to over half of respondents (56%), while 43% see brand awareness as a top priority for 2020/2021. Furthermore, nearly a third of senior marketers (30%) say they want to be bolder and more daring with campaigns, and 39% say they lack strategic marketing expertise in-house.

“The current crisis has given agencies a chance to go the extra mile for clients and showcase their creativity, but our findings suggest that many haven’t stepped up to the plate,” commented Benedict Buckland, Creative Director, alan. “With senior marketers under pressure like never before, it’s important that agencies listen to their needs and concerns, with the aim of adding value where it really matters. We as an industry have an opportunity to experiment and influence strategy at a time when brand building is more important than ever.”

The biggest agency frustrations named by marketers were speed of delivery (39%), transparency around time frames (37%) and refusal to commit to results (35%). Furthermore, two out of three said their agency partners lack substance and depth (66%).

To read more about the challenges and priorities marketers are facing, access the executive summary of findings which will be published 22nd October on the alan website.


The research was conducted by Raconteur’s research panel via an online survey of 600 marketers, 80% of whom were from the UK, and with 20% from Ireland. Respondents were spread across four sectors, including financial services (33%), technology (33%), fintech (17%) and professional services (17%), with half of respondents working at companies with 250-1000 employees, and half at companies with 5,000+. alan commissioned the research to understand the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have on marketing long term, and marketers’ priorities going forward.

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