A report by marketing services consultancy AAR, based on telephone interviews with 200 senior-level UK client and agency representatives, found that marketers were more confident this year than in 2013 and were increasing their budgeted marketing.
Almost all (93%) clients said things had "picked up" for marketing during 2013 and three quarters (74%) expected that situation to continue in 2014.
But this sunny outlook was rather marred by the disconnect evident between clients and agencies, with 77% of the former saying that, in pitches, agencies often set a level of expectation that was rarely delivered on, while 90% of the latter said the same about clients.
It is an area that both sides need to address as the number of pitches will rise in 2014 – the research also found that clients were planning, on average, to add two new agencies to their roster during the year.
When clients do appoint an agency, many indicated subsequent disappointment when various problems arose, such as the agency not costing ideas fully at pitch or over-promising on their capabilities.
Paul Phillips, AAR's managing director said that "some of the results are bewildering because they are actually very easy to solve, such as lack of enthusiasm, senior people talking too much, not bringing the core team, lack of demonstrated interest in the existing agency roster.
"Others," he added "might be symptomatic of the peculiarities of the pitch process."
His advice to clients was to use that process to find an agency they could work with rather than expecting one to show up with all the right answers.
In addition to the challenges thrown up by these relationships, agencies were concerned about an increase in competition (72%), downward pressure on profit margins (49%) and recruiting talent (45%).
Clients were also exercised by increased competition (63%) as well as the need to understand consumers' requirements (55%) and low budgets (53%).
Data sourced from AAR; additional content by Warc staff