Marketers Rely Heavily On Data To Manage Agency Relationships

The widespread and increasing use of data to help manage agency relationships is leading to more informed decision-making and improved efficiencies at both clients and agencies, according to a survey from the Association of National Advertisers. 

The increased use of data is improving transparency and accountability, according to “Using Data to Manage Agency Relationships: What’s Important to Marketers,” which was conducted in August 2016 by the ANA in conjunction with Decideware, a provider of custom agency management solutions for marketers.

More than 80% of advertisers use data to help them manage agency relationships and they expect the use of such data will grow because of the overwhelmingly positive results they have achieved, especially in the area of managing media budgets. Data is most important and most heavily used in managing media and billing/budgets, and least important and least used in the areas of creative and production.



The survey explored the use of data in broad categories of the client/agency relationship, including agency performance evaluations, tracking of agency hours, copy/creative testing, production costs, and media efficiencies/budgets.

“Data helps build better relationships between the client and agency, helping both parties focus on outcomes,” said ANA Group EVP Bill Duggan. in a release. “And at a time where there are transparency issues in the industry, the use of data enhances trust.”

Creative is one area where marketers could take better advantage of data, according to the survey. Clients should pay more attention to the processes for briefing and copy approvals, and use data to track progress, as the implications of not doing so include increased rework and potentially increased agency fees. Specific suggestions include tracking the number of rounds of revision that work undergoes prior to final approval, the average length of time that each approval step takes, and even “soft” metrics like the quality of the brief.

“Creative has traditionally been more of a right brain activity – it can be qualitative and highly subjective,” Duggan tells Marketing Daily. “However, as the lines increasingly blur between creative and media, we would expect data use in creative to grow.” 

Among the 37 performance metrics evaluated in this survey, media-related metrics account for seven of the 10 highest-rated metrics for importance. The specific media-related metrics that rated highest were efficiency of media buys, delivery of total campaign audience goals, and media quality assessment. 

Data in media is the most important and most utilized of any category. With media transparency currently a major issue in the industry, the ANA encourages advertis­ers to assume greater internal stewardship of their media investments and to set up metrics to track performance. 

"The pharmaceutical sector is perhaps where we’ve seen the highest adoption of marketing and procurement teams using data to manage their agency relationships,” Richard Benyon, CEO, Decideware, tells Marketing Daily. “That industry is obviously grounded in management of scientific disciplines, and it’s likely that those same practices are behind their rigorous approach to managing marketing and their agencies."  

Prior ANA research reveals that clients and agencies are not in agreement that the client approval process works well. According to the 2015 ANA report Enhancing Client/Agency Relationships, only 36% of agencies are in agreement versus 54% of clients.

“We have heard perspective from same ANA members on the benefits of formally tracking the number of round for approval of creative work and encourage more members to do that,” Duggan says.  

In total, 92 client-side marketers were represented in the survey. Of those, 61% were “senior marketers” (director level and above) and 39 percent were “junior marketers” (manager level and below). On average, respondents have 18.3 years of experience in marketing/advertising. Fifty-three percent of respondents work at organizations which have an annual U.S. media budget of $100 million or more, while 47 percent work at organizations which have an annual U.S. media budget of less than $100 million. Those organizations are primarily B-to-C for 42 percent of respondents, primarily B-to-B for 13 percent, and equally B-to-C/B-to-B for the remainder.

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