While there is general good news that briefs are beginning to become more detailed in what is required and holistic in how this may be achieved across different channels, there is still a massive disconnect. On the positive side, just 12% of brands claim they are briefing agencies individually -- a figure that has halved since 2014 -- and nearly a half of brands also claim they are briefing agencies in line with a common "master" brief.
Nevertheless, the crucial standout findings, for me, in the latest World Federation of Advertisers report are on exactly the issues where advances are claimed to be being made slowly but where brand claims and agency experience of these changes appear to be telling two very different stories.
The report shows that roughly three in four advertisers claim to include a detailed view of the customer and their journey. However, the same proportion of agencies claim this is typically missing or not complete.
Similarly, on the crucial issue of sending out too many briefs to too many agencies which are limited to just one channel, there is a massive disconnect. While global brands are talking about how they are using fewer agencies to work in a more integrated manner, the research from the WFA would suggest otherwise. Among global brands, 9% admit they might be producing too many briefs that are too specific to one channel. When it comes to agencies receiving those briefs, a massive 59% say this actually happens "sometimes" and 39% agree that it takes place "often."
Conversely, from the advertiser's point of view, there is a small difference in opinions around whether agencies get it right the first time. There is also a lot of statistics that both sides are getting better at arranging face-to-face meetings and in including metrics in briefs and proposals.
Nevertheless, you just can't come away from the figures thinking anything other than despite some progress being claimed, we really are still in a position of agencies and advertisers coming from very different places.
It's odd that the disconnect is so big when you consider this is the era of not just banging on about transparency and brand image but also in securing better relationships with agencies through working with fewer suppliers in a more integrated way.
Clearly, the rhetoric from CMOs speaking at a major conference or giving an interview to the marketing press is not filtering down to the teams that put together briefs. Far too many, it would appear, are going out to too many agencies -- and when they do, agencies report back that they are speaking to channels as silos with a lack of detail about the customer and their journey.
It's getting better, but the gap between what brands say they are doing and what agencies feel they are actually delivering appears to be as stark as ever.