Look ahead: Bridging the brand-agency gap

02/22 By Matt Engstrom

Agencies and their brand clients aren’t always on the same page. For those with experience on either side of the agency-client divide, that statement shouldn’t come as a shock. Anyone who’s worked a day in advertising, or even just caught an episode of Mad Men, knows that agencies and brands see the world differently. For each, understanding the other’s perspective is vital, especially when it comes to working together and planning for the future. Our 2018 Look Ahead, for which we surveyed over 800 media and marketing professionals, captured some of these key differences which can help to explain why agencies and brands are greeting everything from AI to privacy, with different degrees of enthusiasm or dread.

Chasing different challenges

Looking over the horizon, brands were thinking hard about privacy with 58.6% of brand professionals survey listing “privacy concerns” as the challenge they expect to grow in 2018. Given that 2017 was a year of highly publicized data breaches–followed by lengthy negative news cycles–for companies from Equifax to Uber. Add to that the roll-out of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, with its stiff fines for violators who fail to protect consumer privacy, and it’s clear why brands are laser-focused on this issue.

Their agency partners, 45% of whom cited lack of in-app measurement as their greatest anticipated challenge for 2018, would be wise to keep that discrepancy in mind. Privacy ranked a less-unanimous second for agencies, with 44.3% of respondents flagging the issue which narrowly edged out ad fraud at 43%. It’s natural that agencies would be less concerned about data privacy given that their reputations are less likely to be on the line in the event of a breach and GDPR largely takes aim at the brand advertisers that operate sites and data collection efforts rather than the agencies that support them. Still, understanding these differences can help the buy-side to better work in tandem.

Opposing opportunities

Brands and agencies don’t just differ over the things keeping them awake at night, they also see opportunity in different new technologies. Brand advertisers are 16% more likely than agencies to see 2018’s biggest opportunities in cross-device and multi-platform campaigns. For agencies, 2018 is set to be the year of programmatic TV advertising with 58.5% of agency respondents naming it their top pick compared to only 51.7% of brand marketers.

Regardless of this divided focus cross-device and programmatic TV were seen by both parties as the two biggest areas of growth this year and will likely claim a growing share of budgets from each. Keeping in mind where brands and their agency partners are focusing their efforts, and their investments can help to keep partners on the same page and avoid tactical friction.

Bridging the gap

There’s nothing unusual about brands and agencies having fundamentally different viewpoints. In fact, this tension has historically lead to some of the greatest campaigns the industry has ever produced. However, in a world of data-driven marketing, close collaboration, and rising transparency, agencies and brands should regard being forewarned as being forearmed. The same data savvy that can be used to build a groundbreaking campaign can also be used to avoid working at cross-purposes with partners.  

This post is based on data from our 2018 Look Ahead. We surveyed 800 media and marketing professionals across agencies, brands, publishers, and programmatic platforms about challenges, opportunities, new technologies, and the push for transparency. Click here to explore what we discovered and learn how transparency is shaping digital advertising in 2018.