How to avoid wasting your money on Marketing Agencies

Michael Scantlebury, Founder and Creative Director, Impero, reveals how to avoid landing a costly but ineffective agency
Michael Scantlebury
Graphic: Stop Wasting Money

When mobile phone apps first exploded onto the scene, every agency told their clients, “If you don’t have an app you’ll be left behind”. This created a flurry of brands spending their budget on apps, before it was realised nobody needed an app on their phone from a cheese brand.

We’ve seen it happen with eCRM too. Brands invested a lot of money in it because agencies advised them to. “If you don’t build your own eCRM audience you’re going to be left behind”. It didn’t take long to reach the realisation  that not many people needed a weekly email from a biscuit brand.

The same pattern occurred with Big Data,  AR, and now with the metaverse.

In truth, these are all good strategies for the right brands. But for others, they’re a waste of money and time. They’re sold through fear. Fear of being wiped into oblivion if brands don’t jump on them.

I'm not saying that new technology and ideas aren't relevant - they are. At Impero, we use it a lot to maximise the impact for our clients. But only for the right clients with the right problems.

Agencies are at their best when they create solutions to problems. And marketing problems are usually based on classic marketing principles. The latest tech, or media is very often the most effective way to tackle these fundamental problems for a brand. But sometimes, the best answers have nothing to do with advertising, digital or the metaverse. This is especially true when it comes to problems with getting more interested in the business in the first place. You need a marketing agency that is able to do some research, understand that a potential pain point of your business is your website, and then look at articles like those written by Creative Tweed to get some ideas on how to move forward digitally.

Airlines are a great example of this. Airlines do some wonderful advertising, and some use great innovative tech to bring this to life. But it counts for nothing if you fly with that airline and the seat is horrible, the plane is dirty, the food is miserable, and the staff look like they would rather be anywhere else than on that plane.

The best agencies sit around the table and talk with their clients as one team about what will make the biggest impact in their business. Then they work together to solve those problems. In truth, you don’t need to be on the metaverse if you’re a  brand who is struggling to e make a cheese sandwich that doesn’t taste like cardboard when flying people to Spain.

When you’re out there looking for an agency, we suggest looking for the most curious ones. The ones willing to think about your entire consumer experience, not the ones that just want to sell you what they make. Make sure you share the consumer and brand pain points with them. We have got into a bad habit in this industry of communicating via briefs. We have a brief for X, we need you to respond with Y. Of course briefs are important, but the best agency / client relationships don’t use them as a baton to pass to each other. They are built together as part of the process, by first understanding and unpicking the most important business or consumer problems to solve.

Not all agencies are equipped to think and deal with this. Truth is, it’s easier for an agency to just get a brief and respond with an ad. That's why the model stays intact. But it’s not the best use of the client’s budget.

Same goes for agencies. If you’re on a need to know basis. You have to ask yourself if you're going to do great work. I think this is how agencies can solve the biggest issue facing their business model right now - that is, clients don’t need us as much as they used to. They can inhouse, they can go directly to production companies. And they can go to market with every brief.

The best relationships are built on brutal honesty and information sharing. That’s how a client can extract the best value from an agency, and an agency can ensure it’s offering irreplaceable value.

Written by
Michael Scantlebury
April 14, 2023