Efficient Briefing Continues To Be An Issue For Clients-Agencies: WFA

Global brands are improving their ability to brief for integrated communications but some familiar failings remain, according to a new survey from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA). 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 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 skeptical.

Just 12 percent of brands say they now provide separate briefs for each department/agency, down from 24 percent in 2014, while an equal number (44 percent) 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 percent and 40 percent respectively in 2014.

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

Perceptions of the quality of briefs are also split. While roughly three quarters of clients (73 percent) 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 percent highlight the sporadic nature (never/sometimes) of the inclusion of these critical elements.

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

Clients confidently state that they brief all departments/agencies ‘at the same time’ (71 percent) yet their agency counterparts dispute that statement with only 24 percent agreeing that this is happening ‘often or always’. Rather, they highlight the sporadic nature of this approach with 67 percent of agencies saying that they are ‘sometimes’ briefed at the same time as other agencies, whist 9 percent say this never happens.

Other Key Findings Include:
#1. Face-to-face briefing is on the rise (up from 85 percent in 2014 to 93 percent). 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.

#2. More people are now involved in creating briefs than in 2014 with clients saying more external consultancies being used (88 percent versus 47 percent in 2014) and, rather encouragingly, more local marketers also (65 percent versus 48 percent in 2014).

#3. Briefs now include more metrics: 100 percent of clients say they now include business KPIs, 96 percent include marketing metrics, 64 percent include behavioural changing KPIs. More insight is being included from a variety of sources but, most notably, local markets.

#4. Nearly 80 percent of clients believe they ‘always or mostly’ brief well in advance, however, 57 percent of agencies say they are usually briefed later than they should be.
• Whilst 46 percent of agencies believe they are very regularly ‘right first time’ in responding to briefs, just 36 percent of clients would agree. Seven per cent of clients say agencies are “rarely right first time’.

#5. It is relatively rare that agencies (12 percent according to agencies, 18 percent according to clients) will 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 percent according to agencies, 44 percent according to clients).

“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,” said Robert Dreblow, Global Head of Marketing Services at the WFA.

Lucinda Peniston-Baines, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at The Observatory International added, “We were pleased to see that the findings revealed some degree of overall improvement in the quality of integrated briefing versus 2014, but there are clearly some issues which are significant ‘watch-outs’ for both parties in the future. As agencies’ and clients’ models evolve to deliver more dynamic marketing, having these basics in place – and alignment around them – will become increasingly critical when working at pace.”

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

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