Switching agencies and branding

A new article in Adweek (January 14, 2008) reports that in a survey of chief marketing officers, “nearly half of marketers plan to fire at least one of their agencies and change direction,” according to the Chief Marketing Officer Council’s second annual forecast.

A total of 825 chief marketing officers were surveyed. They are turning “away from traditional advertising and public relations and toward ‘customer-facing’ and lead generation programs such as event marketing and e-mail.”

Nearly half of respondents, 45 percent, said they were going to change agencies in 2008. They plan to fire their Web design and development firms, direct marketing agencies, general ad agencies, and PR firms.

The article quotes Dave Murray, executive vice president of the CMO Council, who said that Web “is the top priority in terms of brand, customer engagement, insight.” And chief marketing officers are sick of “a lack of innovation,” “no value-added thinking,” and “poor creative.”

Not that they’re spending less money. Fully half of respondents say they will spend more on marketing, including “e-mail programs, CRM, marketing performance measurement dashboards and search engine marketing.”

It appears that the most marketing dollars are being allocated to “strategy and branding,” followed by events, trade shows, operations, direct marketing, sales support, online, and advertising.

So what does this survey show? Marketing officers want to get closer to the customer, and they believe that experiential marketing—direct contact—and the Web are the way to do that. They are less interested in advertising than they were before, certainly.

This is a seismic shift for branding. We are now witnessing the advent of the interactive brand age, and the death of one-way communication models like advertising. Marketers are paying heed to what customers are saying (whether directly or indirectly), which is that they want more in-touch modes of being connected with than just a 30-second commercial. It will be interesting to see where this trend takes us.