A J.K. Simmons-Inspired List Of The Three Biggest Reasons For Marketing Change

The 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 its consumers’ 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 on Cologne, Germany for dmexco, I thought it would be helpful to frame the issues we should be talking about by revealing the most-typical statements I’ve heard from marketers about changing agencies.

1. “Our agency sucks.”

This is a fairly common refrain, where the definition of “suck” can be manifold. Agencies can suck at delivering powerful creative (however measured), or suck at being transparent, or suck because they are considered super-pricey, or just because marketers don’t like the agency people they work with anymore.



Funny thing is, when we start digging into the reasons for why marketers have reached this conclusion, we find it’s often because they themselves display suckiness. They might always brief late, or measure all media buys by a low-cost yard stick, or 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’s 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 the new one sucks, 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 it makes sense to bring certain functions, activities or technologies in-house.

However, as simple and perhaps idealistic as it sounds to have your own people doing stuff that you used to pay an agency a ton of money for, it usually isn’t as straightforward as that.

I have written about the pitfalls of this move 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 brings a lot of responsibility.

3. “There’s a budget black hole.”

That’s when we hear statements 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 an opportunity to create a better version of yourself.

The funny thing is, 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 come up. If not, there is something wrong with that line of “We know a thing or two…”

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