In recent years, the brand-agency dynamic underwent a major shift. This was against a background of increasing disengagement and elusiveness in online behavior. Both brands and agencies have felt the need to use digital marketing to increase growth in dynamic markets.

As the pandemic increases anxiety about growth, brands need strategic agency partners to reach elusive customers. While brands want to adjust their digital marketing strategies to respond to shifts in consumer online behavior, they admit that it is difficult to effectively harness customer data. Eighty-two per cent of brand decision-makers believe that agencies should be strategic partners. 77% also agree with the importance of agencies providing customer-first strategies. These needs are being recognized by agency leaders who are shifting their priorities. The pandemic has increased anxiety about growth and brands expect agencies that will deliver on this imperative. This is beyond the traditional agency focus, which is to deliver digital efficiencies.

Brands are keen to understand the value of agency assets and seek out ways to improve their commercial performance. On the issue of value exchange, there is a disconnect between agencies and brands. Both agencies and brands expect compensation structures that are focused on outcomes to be a priority. Brands point out the limitations in agency rosters, such as the inability to use customer data efficiently; while agencies are facing financial difficulties with meeting client needs due to reductions to their marketing budgets.

Agencies that embrace rapid change to help brands acquire digital consumers and engage them will win. Agencies will transform their capabilities and master technology to address changes in consumer behavior and meet client needs. Brands are reviewing key marketing functions that will require agency support amid the current pandemic. To acquire consumers online, build meaningful relationships that drive loyalty and use emerging martech and visual media, brands will need assistance. These brands will be served by agencies that are open to rapid change.