WFA says client/agency briefing is getting (a bit) better

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), which struggles manfully to bridge the gap between advertisers and agencies (unlike some of its national peer groups) has been researching the vexed matter of agency briefing, in particular for “integrated accounts.”

It concludes that global brands are improving their ability to brief for integrated communications but some familiar failings remain. The results indicate that while many advertisers have improved their briefing there is still work to do on lack of alignment, clarity and timing.

The survey, conducted with consultancy The Observatory International, is based on responses from 32 multinational clients across 12 sectors with an annual spend of more than $14bn. Their responses have been compared with those of 46 senior agency staff with global and regional roles to provide an agency view of progress.

The results show that while advertisers are happy to claim improvements in their briefing process since the survey was last conducted in 2014, agencies are more sceptical.

Just 12 per cent of brands say they now provide separate briefs for each department/agency, down from 24 per cent in 2014, while an equal number (44 per cent) of clients are now briefing with either a common master brief (including role-specific requirement for each agency) or a single brief for all stakeholders. This is an improvement from 36 per cent and 40 per cent respectively in 2014.

By contrast agencies say that too many briefs are arriving with specific channels/outputs in mind. Nine per cent of advertisers will admit to doing this but 59 per cent of agencies say this sometimes happens and 39 per cent say it often occurs.

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Perceptions of the quality of briefs are also split. While roughly three quarters of clients (73 per cent) say they include a single-minded proposition and a single view of the customer in their briefs, this picture is not endorsed by the agencies’ perspective as 76 per cent highlight the sporadic nature (never/sometimes) of the inclusion of these elements.

Agencies were even more scathing about the lack of a clear integrated customer journey (93 per cent said sometimes/never) or a single view of the customer and a common insight (82 per cent said sometimes/never).

Other findings include:

*Face-to-face briefing is on the rise (up from 85 per cent in 2014 to 93 per cent). Briefing by email has, however, more than doubled (reflected in a decline in telephone briefing). Anecdotally, email is typically used when the brief is more tactical in nature. Online meetings and workshops remain in steady use.

*More people are now involved in creating briefs than in 2014 with clients saying more external consultancies being used (88 per cent versus 47 per cent in 2014) and more local marketers also (65 per cent versus 48 per cent in 2014).

*Nearly 80 per cent of clients believe they ‘always or mostly’ brief well in advance while 57 per cent of agencies say they are usually briefed later than they should be.

*46 per cent of agencies believe they are very regularly ‘right first time’ in responding to briefs, just 36 per cent of clients would agree. Seven per cent of clients say agencies are “rarely right first time.’

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*It is still relatively rare for agencies (12 per cent according to agencies, 18 per cent according to clients) to charge additional fees for reworking responses to briefs, even if poor briefing by the client is acknowledged. When the brief is clearly changed by the client there is often an additional charge (51 per cent according to agencies, 44 per cent according to clients).

WFA global head of marketing services Robert Dreblow says:“It would seem global brands are making progress in improving their integrated briefing process. Ultimately integration doesn’t come down to agencies or brands, it comes down to people. Strong client leadership coupled with agency collaboration is what’s needed to ensure consistency and improvement in applying these processes.”

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