What marketers really want from agencies

A survey of 500 CMOs by Dentsu Creative will make salutary reading for agencies, but also reveals how central creativity and design are to business, says Patricia McDonald, chief strategy director at Dentsu Creative

We pride ourselves, as agencies, on knowing the customer better than anyone. The ‘voice of the consumer’, the home of ‘customer-centric’ design, the experts in real insight into real people. Yet it seems we’re increasingly out of touch with what our own clients need and want.

Dentsu Creative’s annual survey of over 500 CMOs from across the globe delivers some stark and surprising insights into the current client-agency relationship, with significant implications for how smart agencies can evolve to help our clients navigate the turbulence we find ourselves in.

The stats make for stark reading: 85% of CMOs around the world believe that while consumer behaviour has changed, agencies have not kept pace; and 78% agree that the siloed agency model is no longer fit for purpose.

Today’s CMOs have complex roles, and they reject simplistic answers. The survey revealed that 73% agree that their role is more complicated than ever. As a result, they want simpler teams and simpler structures, but not simplistic solutions. In fact they reject old binaries: short term vs long term; brand vs performance; data vs creativity. That being said, 73% agree that their peers focus too much on short term versus long term outcomes, while 78% agree their contemporaries neglect brand and emotion at the expense of ‘performance’ marketing.

Dentsu_CMO_Survey_Agency Model outdated

CMOs are asking for more nuanced responses, and are expecting agencies to see the whole board. It’s tempting to see creativity as a job for art directors, copywriters, designers or directors, but clients are thinking about creativity much more broadly.