Most client-side advertising and marketing directors are too busy surviving the jobs ratrace to take risks with their ad strategies or campaigns, avers a headline-grabbing report published this week by specialist accountancy firm Willott Kingston Smith.

The survey, Marketing in the 21st Century, which polled the UK’s top 100 advertisers, typifies today’s harassed marketer as “time-poor, operating with restricted budgets and under increasing pressure to deliver tangible results”. Within this coercive environment a number of key issues influence the decisions they take, with serious implications for agencies and media owners.

Because most clients are so stretched in their roles few are willing to experiment with new communications tools and many are ill-informed or confused by the growing range of options available. They are also increasingly reliant on agency advice – although there is a growing suspicion that this (particularly when proffered by creative shops) is not necessarily relevant to their marketing objectives.

And although lack of time means client executives are reluctant to experiment, internal pressure to deliver tangible results favours media that can offer a clearly measurable outcome. As a result, spend continues to filter from mainstream media into direct mail, sales promotion, telemarketing and online activity.

The report also reveals that a mere one third of respondents expect to increase their marketing budgets over the next five years. Forty-seven per cent expect no change and 20% a decline.

As to choice of marketing services providers, most clients (62%) use a roster of specialist companies: 13% use a full service arrangement and 25% an in-house facility. An overwhelming majority (92%) use a creative agency, while 87% use a specialist media planning/buying shop.

The report also detects increasing interest in tackling communications strategy before creative solutions. Some marketing directors also charge that too much emphasis is placed on creativity at the expense of targeting and channel planning.

Opined one cynical client: “Creative staff in agencies lack real empathy with the products or brands they are working on. What does a creative person driving a Porsche, living in an expensive part of London, know about life in a three-bed semi. Highly creative people with a total lack of empathy could put the brand at risk.”

The average marketing budget is pegged in the region of five per cent of company turnover, while 5% of those budgets are currently allocated to digital or interactive media.

News source: Media Week (UK)