CMOs left herding agency cats


An interesting new study popped into my inbox today which argues that one of the problems with marketing in 2013 is that there are too many agencies involved, all operating without effective co-ordination from the marketers who’re paying them.

herding_catsEver felt like you’re herding cats? Spare a thought for the poor CMO.

An interesting new study popped into my inbox today which argues that one of the problems with marketing in 2013 is that there are too many agencies involved, all operating without effective co-ordination from the marketers who’re paying them.

End result? The marketing strategy doesn’t get delivered upon.

According to the Back to Creativity study from marketing production services company Charterhouse and based upon based on interviews with 200 senior marketing professionals, almost half of European marketers (48%) say the burden of agency coordination has become unmanageable.

CMOs are being turned into administrators of agency ecosystems to such an extent that 60% say that they no longer have enough time to do the day job properly.

Anthony Hawkins, business development manager at Charterhouse, comments:

“Marketers’ agency rosters have increased significantly to cope with the explosion in new channels, but the coordination load is clearly getting too large, especially when many marketing teams are shrinking in size. It’s vital that marketers have the time to think about strategy, but this valuable time is being hoovered up with administration and management.”

Other key findings include the inevitable ‘more with less’ complaint:

  • Across Europe’s top 500 companies, over two fifths (42%) of marketers have seen personnel reductions in their department in the past five years.
  • Nearly a third (30%) have experienced budgetary cutbacks.
  • Just over thirds of European marketers (68%) are now expected to do more with less and need to deliver more results from their activity.

New social media and online digital delivery channels may be popularly assumed to have offered up new opportunities, but survey respondents actually perceive them as adding to their work burden:

  • Some 61% of respondents say that new digital channels have created more work for their marketing teams.
  • Around 59% say that they now have to produce more marketing content than ever before, despite the fact that staff numbers have fallen.

1All of this means that the hard pressed CMO turns to outsourced assistance in the form of more and more agency support for the internal marketing function, with negative effects:

  • Over half of European marketers (52 per cent) report hiring more external agencies.
  • Almost two thirds (63%) feel that working with so many agencies makes creating integrated campaigns more difficult.
  • More than half (53%) say problems also arise as a result of lack of, or miscommunications between agencies.
  • An equal number – 53% – says this, and the growing number of new marketing channels, leads to consistency problems with marketing materials.
  • Most alarmingly perhaps, 55% of European marketers feel too overburdened to apply creative input to their own marketing.

With all that being the case, it’s hardly wonder that the agencies that are hired in become the ‘blame hounds’:

  • Two thirds (64%) say the average length of tenure for their agencies is reducing.

The report notes:

This unwanted metamorphosis of the marketing function is creating a threat. Businesses are increasingly missing out the strategic and creative driving force their marketers should and want to be.

In tandem, companies are rapidly amassing a host of new inefficiencies and brand consistency challenges in the coordination and duplication of effort that multiple agency relationships inevitably entail.

What’s to be done?

Charterhouse offers up a 7 point plan to address some of these challenges.

1. Encourage a culture of sharing

“Seek to develop an internal structure that facilitates and encourages all stakeholders to work seamlessly together to ensure every party involved in the creation of marketing campaigns knows exactly what is happening and has access to the same, consistent brand information.”

2. Standardise and empower

“Agree your approval processes and don’t deviate from them. Also, use tools such as standardised ordering systems to ensure regular tasks do not create more of a time burden than necessary.”

3. Get a little closer (to procurement):

“Marketing, and the procurement of marketing services, should be viewed in a holistic way. With a greater view of the supply chain and more input on the selection of creative agencies, procurement can contribute great savings to the marketing department.”

4. Monitor, measure and make money work harder.

“Seeking lower-cost alternatives that meet core objectives is one way to make resources go further, but another is to closely monitor and utilise data to ensure the right level of investment is made on each campaign element.”

5. Build budgets from the bottom up.

“Take a zero-up approach and examine every item in your budget to make sure it is absolutely necessary. Particularly scour for any items that might be lingering from past activities that no longer contribute to your goals.”

6. Axe the admin.

“Online digital asset management technology can be used by both your department and your agencies to help increase productivity by ensuring all your your brand assets are stored, managed and accessed in one place.”

7. Delve into Decoupling.

“In a decoupled model, a production company will sit underneath creative activities, managing production, coordinating regular production activities and tackling new challenges in partnership with marketing.”


You can’t outsource a problem. It’s still a problem.

What’s needed is a new look at the problem and a new approach.


Graphic: Charterhouse Production