Agencies are sceptical about ‘integrated’ client briefs

Clients believe they are getting better at briefing a “single-minded proposition”, but agencies remain frustrated with channel-specific briefs.

Agencies are frustrated that too many brands are still briefing work with specific channels and outputs in mind, rather than adopting integrated communications strategies, new research shows.

The survey from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and marketing consultancy The Observatory International is based on responses from 32 multinational clients across 12 sectors with an annual spend of more than $14bn (£11bn). Their responses were compared with those of 46 senior agency staff with global and regional roles to provide an agency view of progress.

Although advertisers believe they have made improvements in the briefing process since the survey was last conducted in 2014, agencies are more sceptical. For example, while 73% of clients claim to include a “single-minded proposition” or single view of the customer in their briefs, 76% of agency representatives say this occurs only sporadically.

Only one in 10 brands say they still provide separate briefs for each department or agency, down from 24% in 2014. Nearly half of clients (44%) also state they now use a common master brief that may include role-specific requirements for each agency.

However, 98% of agencies say that briefs are ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ geared around specific channels and outputs.

WFA’s global head of marketing services Robert Dreblow believes there are signs that global brands are making progress in creating integrated briefs, despite agencies’ scepticism.

“Ultimately integration doesn’t come down to agencies or brands, it comes down to people,” he says. “Strong client leadership coupled with agency collaboration is what’s needed to ensure consistency and improvement in applying these processes.”

The research also shows that more people are now involved in creating briefs than in 2014, with clients making more use of external consultancies (88% versus 47% in 2014).