Google-Kantar Study Defines 'Budget Agile,' Finds Strategy Improves Campaign Performance

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have improved the way marketers advertise and market, but sometimes an organization lacks the agility to make quick media budgeting decisions.

Google partnered with Kantar to survey more than 2,400 global marketers and explore the importance of agility in planning, allocating, and optimizing digital budgets across channels -- including how automation influences this process to help marketers achieve new levels of what the companies call “budget agility.”

Budget agility is the process of adjusting budgets across digital channels on a weekly or more frequent basis,

Based on this metric of budget agility, nearly one-quarter of marketers surveyed are considered budget-agile, and more are considering behavioral changes in the way they budget media buys.

Budget agility does not mean marketers are unprepared. Thirty-one percent of budget-agile marketers engage in formal marketing planning to align on strategy and digital-media budget allocations every month versus 18% of non-agile marketers, according to the study.

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Marketers with the ability to quickly alter media budgets are 25% more likely than non-agile marketers to report their performance as stronger than industry competitors. And 48% state their marketing performance exceeded internal expectations and marketing key performance indicators (KPIs), compared with 33% of marketers who do not follow this practice.

On average, 60% of marketers who say they are “extremely agile” only make budget adjustments across digital channels monthly or less frequently, which does not fit into the report’s definition of being “budget agile.”

While this gap between perception and actual behavior exists at all levels of an organization, C-level executives are twice as likely as individual contributors to view their business as extremely budget-agile.

One challenge is that the budget approval process is lengthy for 54% of marketers who are less flexible and swift to make decisions. This is when changes to digital budgets of 20% or more take a month or longer for approval. Compare this with the 59% of agile marketers who say changes to digital budget of 20% or more take a week or longer for approval.

Some 52% of marketers said executive or C-level individuals have a major influence on budget adjustments after the initial planning period, which can take longer.

The research shows companies do not need to make dramatic changes to become more agile in their budget-decision processes. It’s about achieving quick results.

About 42% of budget-agile marketers said their agency partners greatly influence adjustments they make after initial budget planning, compared to only 31% of non-agile marketers.

Companies are making other changes, too. Budget-agile marketers are leaning on agency partnerships. Agencies can help encourage an agile mindset when it comes to budgeting and breaking down organizational silos.

Some 42% of budget-agile marketers say their agency partners greatly influence adjustments they make after initial budget planning, compared to only 31% of non-agile marketers.

These partnerships mean setting shared goals that allow them to approach strategies based on results rather than channel, with 41% of marketers surveyed have instituted shared metrics and KPIs across channels to improve collaboration.

Budget-agile marketers are 29% more likely than non-agile marketers to use cross-channel automation.

Some 31% of budget-agile marketers said it is “very easy” to get additional budget to start new tests that weren’t included in the initial media budget, compared to just 9% of non-agile marketers.

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