US insurance company Farmers Insurance’s campaign tag line, perfectly delivered by Oscar winning
actor J. K. Simmons, is: “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two”. I love this line, as
it suggests Farmers policies constantly evolve because of their consumer’s experiences. We all know a
thing or two, and as we get older and gather more experience, we might even know a thing or three.
One such area where I now know a thing or three is marketers’ biggest reasons for wanting to change.
And as the marketing world descends onto Cologne, Germany for dmexco, I thought it would be helpful
to frame the issues we should be talking about by revealing the typical questions we get asked as we
work with some of the world’s biggest brands.
1. Our Agency Sucks
This is a fairly common refrain, where the definition of “suck” can be manifold. They can suck at
delivering powerful creative (however measured), or suck at being transparent, or suck because they are
considered super pricey, or just because the marketer doesn’t like the people they work with anymore.
Funny thing is, when we start digging into the reasons for why a marketer has reached the conclusion
that their agency sucks, it is often because they themselves display suckiness as well. They might always
brief late, or measure all media buys by a low-cost yard stick, or they change direction every week and
therefore require enormous amounts of rework or last-minute changes, and so on.
Don’t get me wrong: when the relationship is truly broken, it is probably time for a change. But a
measure of change needs to happen within the marketing organization at the same time. Otherwise, 12
months after appointing a shiny new agency, the marketer will conclude they suck, too.
2. We Are Thinking of Taking it All in House
This is a common refrain, which is often delivered as part of the “agency sucks” reasoning. Many
marketers are asking if there is an argument to bring certain functions, activities or technologies in
However, as simple and perhaps idealistic as it sounds to bring stuff in house that you used to pay an
agency a ton of money for, it isn’t usually as straight forward as that. We have written about the pitfalls
and challenges for marketers to take stuff in house frequently. It requires a lot of dedicated time and
resources to run programmatic in house, or to produce content in house. A puppy isn’t just for
Christmas, as they say. Once you bring it into your home, owning it comes a lot of responsibility.
3. The Budget Black Hole
Here we get questions like “Our marketing budget isn’t increasing, but the number of
activities/brands/line extensions are”, or “Our market share/profit/volume/sales is down and so are our
budgets (says Marketing Procurement)”. This is a very real reason for wanting change, but the danger is
that the change becomes a cost cutting exercise instead of using it as an opportunity to create a better
version of yourself. The funny thing is that building a leaner and more agile marketing function will
almost always generate a ton of savings.
Now go and listen to Marc Pritchard and Sir Martin Sorrell at dmexco, and see if any of these themes
If they strike a chord with issues you yourself are trying to solve, feel free to connect with us.
[Maarten is a featured contributor to MediaPost, this article was originally published here]