US Marketers' in Moan Mode Over Ad Agencies, Networks

22 October 2008

ORLANDO, Florida: Leapfrogging agencies to work directly with media companies is, it seems, an appealing prospect for some of America's mightiest marketers.

Nor is that the only option that appeals to the nation's chief marketing officers, in session last weekend at the Association of National Advertisers' annual conference.

Some participants at a CMO Roundtable revealed that they seek to fix an agency model they see as broken. Among them Gary Elliott, vp-corporate marketing at Hewlett-Packard.

"What's lacking in agency relationships now is speed to market, he said. "I don't think with our current system we're achieving that. ... We're going to pilot a number of different relationships where we go direct with media companies."

"I don't think any of these [agency] relationships are satisfactory enough that we would continue them without having some degree of experimentation.

"We've been experimenting with different agency relationships where we're looking at agency partners and vendors in ways that connect them loosely with each other. We're looking at models where we have everything with one of our key partners."

Senior vp-marketing and digital media for Verizon CommunicationsJohn Harrobin nodded in agreement. "I don't think you can be a top-twenty or [top] 30 advertiser and not have that [direct] relationship with media companies," he said.

Opined Charles Schwab cmo Becky Saeger: "If I were an agency, I would be really worried about being disintermediated [a term used only by inhabitants of Planet Zog – and marketers wanting to impress their peers]."

Saeger, however, had the bit between her teeth - although it appeared not to impede her tongue ...

"More and more the agencies are almost in the way sometimes. So there are people in this room who were at a talk this week where we had started to do strategic briefings for media companies so we know that they understand what we're trying to do with our brand so we get higher quality input and not have to rely on our media agency to be in the middle all the time."

Back in the realm of realtime English, Verizon's Harrobin expressed concerns about online ad placements. "Managing context of where your ad appears online with these [web] networks is really vital," he said.

"There are still doubts that [online is] as effective at telling a story as TV or has the reach. Thankfully, Hulu and MTV and others have proven that you can do this effectively without disrupting the customer experience. So I think that's going to help the market."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff