The Great Agency Review Frenzy

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Last year, the agency review scene resembled a singles mixer on steroids, with more than 150 pitches (that we were aware of) here in Canada alone. So what caused the frenzy of pitches last year – and what can we expect in the year ahead?

While there’s never going to be a single reason for all pitches in market, there are some consistent themes that are likely suspects:

  • Inflation attacks: With the economy on a rollercoaster and inflation soaring, marketing budgets quickly found themselves in the hot seat. Resourceful marketers weren’t giving up easily and soon found themselves on the hunt for smarter ways to stretch every penny and seek better results.
  • Remote Working Woes: Like it or not, working from home exposed cracks in the client-agency process like a weak foundation after an earthquake. Suddenly, progress flaws began to impede work output and that in-turn raised questions about an agency’s ability to deliver.
  • The Revolving Talent Door: Marketing and agency teams struggled to slow a revolving door of talent. New teams ushered in uncertainty and with that uncertainty, reviews inevitably followed.  In a world of evolving AI solutions, this was perhaps a harsh reminder this is a business that continues thrives on relationships.
  • Goodbye Handshakes, Hello Internalization: With agency staffing shaky, some marketers re-evaluated and decided to take portions of their business in-house. They went from “let’s test this internalization thing” to “full-blown domestic partnership” faster than you can say “commitment issues.”
  • Pandemic Hangover: Remember all those agency searches put on ice thanks to COVID? Heck… remember COVID?!  Well, the COVID  thaw likely reached its peak last year, which contributed to a review traffic jam of epic proportions.

So, what about this year – are we in for another record breaking year of reviews?

It’s our view that the pandemic review thaw is finally over and anything that was delayed because of COVID has now happened. But even if – as many suspect – inflation cools and interest rates dip, marketers are still laser-focused on protecting tight budgets. This, folks, is a recipe for a tinderbox of change potentially as explosive as last year.

Meanwhile, any marketer dreading the prospect of a disruptive search, proactive self-reflection can offer a valuable alternative and a chance to strengthen the brand-agency partnership. Corresponding agencies must be ready to add additional value and resolve lingering remote working challenges, or find themselves defending their turf from hungry competitors.

And if all that weren’t enough, we need to be mindful that a US election is doubtless going to add to the distraction and add to the uncertainty of economic challenges through to the end of November.

And that will will make things interesting.


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed 

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