Costs Driving Creative Reviews

Marketers say they’re increasingly focused on efficiencies but deny creativity is taking a hit, poll shows

As if there weren’t enough Orwellian examples of creative advertising reviews sans creative, along comes the global HSBC contest and a new poll that finds marketers increasingly are focusing on cost and efficiencies when reviewing their accounts.

RSW/US polled 101 marketing leaders at companies like Reckitt Benckiser and Volkswagen and 168 executives at agencies such as DDB and JWT, asking if factors like operations, resources and price are becoming more important in reviews.

Eighty-three percent of the marketers and half of the agencies said yes, and nearly a third of the agencies said they think marketers are overemphasizing non-creative factors in reviews.

Yet, when asked if this heightened focus on operational concerns undercut creativity, 77 percent of the marketers said no.

Of course, you get what you pay for, and if cost is a primary concern, marketers shouldn’t be surprised if less experienced (read: cheaper) talent ends up working on their business. That’s not to say that agencies can’t operate more efficiently. But there are limits.

“Given the pressures that [marketers are] facing, they need to know that they’re getting the most out of their agencies,” explained Mark Sneider, president of RSW/US, a new business consulting firm in Cincinnati. “They need agencies that can come in and smartly and strategically help manage their business in as efficient a way as they can.

“But there is a line that marketers are going to keep trying to push,” Sneider added. “And at some point there is a diminishing return to the value they’re going to get out of these agencies.”

Nevertheless, global corporations these days are driven to deliver shareholder value any way they can. And it’s in that context that HSBC is assessing all its outside supplier relationships, including those related to marketing.

Underscoring the operational bent of its review, HSBC is using a consulting firm that specializes in procurement and supply chain optimization.

The high stakes benchmarking exercise also includes the bank’s media business and will last up to five months. Lead creative and media shops JWT and Mindshare are defending.

Two other mega-marketers recently shifted creative assignments for efficiencies’ sake. Three weeks ago, Johnson & Johnson dismissed three creative agencies and redistributed their assignments among four roster shops. In March, General Motors consolidated its global Chevrolet creative account at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and McCann Erickson, cutting some 70 shops in the process.