Over 50% of CMOs aren’t looking for Big Agencies for Online

A new study has reaffirmed something I’m hearing more and more. Big agencies don’t get online.

Sapient, through Evalueserve, surveyed a number of CMO’s, and just over half of them believe that traditional, large ad agencies are “ill-suited to meet online marketing needs”. They believe that there’s too much invested in traditional models, and that agencies can’t think beyond these constraints.

The upshot? Fewer than 10% of those polled seek to partner with large agencies for online marketing. They instead look for partners with roots in technology, a high degree of creativity and traditional print expertise, or, even more common, to use multiple agencies.

It’s not that large agencies don’t have people capable of getting online. In many cases, they do. But they’re trapped in a rigid and bureaucratic structure that sucks the lifeblood out of the bold thinking and initiative essential for online. They spend more time fighting turf wars than they do providing value to clients, and it seems that the clients are getting tired of it.

Increasingly, large agencies are struggling to understand the shifting marketplace. They are fighting the idea of a participatory approach to branding, with a community of consumers at least as important in the process as the actual brand itself. They are far more comfortable with the more traditional, and much more profitable, command and controlled channel form of marketing that has been built over the last several decades. They’re struggling to win in a new game where they don’t know the rules, largely because they haven’t been written yet.

The big agencies are out there shopping right now. They’re looking to buy expertise needed. I wonder how successful this will be. It’s not just the expertise they’re lacking. It’s the environment needed to let their experts do their job. You can buy all the roses you want, but if you lock them in a dark basement, you’re not going to see much blooming.

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