Marketing in 2022: Why Brands Need Partners, Not Agencies

The first advertising agency in the world was set up in 1841, making the industry almost two centuries old. Today, there’s a yawning gap between what clients expect and what agencies can deliver – even as digital has become all-pervasive. By accident or by design, agencies have specialised into their own niches, and more than often than not, they lack the true end-to-end digital capabilities that brands need in 2022.

Yet the onset of data and technology in marketing promises to change the traditional agency-client model into something better: a partnership that’s focused on delivering real business results. Here are seven reasons why brands need partners, not agencies.

Business Outcomes

Because digital is so much more measurable, it’s no longer taboo for brands to expect tangible outcomes from their agencies. But many agencies still focus on “vanity metrics” that can’t be directly attributed to sales. For marketing to be truly effective, an agency needs to own, and be accountable for, the same business goals as their clients. And instead of the usual commission rates, brands should explore an outcome-based model.


In 2022, a chief marketing officer’s (CMO) biggest bugbears will include some or all of the following: misaligned goals between client and agency, breaking down siloes between service providers, and consolidating multiple sources of customer data. The fact that brands simultaneously employ multiple agencies doesn’t help – a media agency talks media metrics, a social media agency talks content plans, and so on. It then falls to the marketer to put the pieces together and justify marketing spends. But like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, each of them is missing the bigger picture. As marketing becomes ever more complex, and as customer journeys fragment in unpredictable ways, integration will be key.

Data & Insights

Forrester’s global marketing survey found that the top four concerns of CMOs are:

A data-driven approach is critical in solving all the above. But even if most agencies understand the importance of drawing insights from customer data, there remains a staunch resistance due to the belief that data will kill creativity. The client brief to agencies is also data-blind at times, but agencies are reluctant to go beyond their assigned roles for fear of upsetting the apple cart. Brands need a partner which can help them take the brief a notch higher with data-backed insights.


The same Forrester survey found that 50% of CMOs think personalisation of the customer experience is a strategic priority. Yet most agencies can’t do personalisation well because creatives tend to be “fixed”. They shouldn’t be – ADA worked with a client to produce nearly 40,000 pieces of personalised creative assets. Most agencies would shun that kind of work because the margins are low, and they would rather sell something more profitable even if that means sub-optimal outcomes for the client. Furthermore, effective personalisation can’t be executed by a patchwork of specialist agencies seeking to maximise their own profits. What brands need is a partner which can co-own personalisation outcomes across the customer journey.


A few years ago, there were but a few hundred technology solutions catering to marketers. That number is now north of 8,000, and the barrier of entry to automation has never been lower. But the fact remains that most agencies are not in favour of automation eating their lunch. For brands, dealing with technology vendors individually might not be the solution either, as each will claim their solution to be the best without due consideration for the needs of each client’s technology stack.


COVID-19 will be remembered as the great digital accelerator – an uncomfortable reality for most agencies. To keep up with changes in consumer behaviour, agencies have to be creative on a daily basis and iterate constantly with the support of customer insights and performance data. But if a brand’s agency ecosystem finds that using data and pivoting quickly are a challenge, then that could be a red flag.

Digital Talent

The typical agency checks the following boxes: it’s good at stakeholder management, negotiating, and storytelling. But digital-ready talents in 2022 also need to be fluent in digital psychology, customer engagement, analytics, MarTech, and so much more. Brands should look for T-shaped partners who can go broad as well as deep, while also being highly skilled in end-to-end execution.

To learn more about getting out of the rut with your marketing agency, watch the full video from our Re.Con on-demand webinar.


End-to-end Excellence: Why Brands Need Partners, Not Agencies

Marketers are racing to meet the needs of a new era. Does that call for a new type of marketer who can find smarter uses of data, rethink the customer experience, and move beyond vanity metrics?


Anurag Gupta

Chief Operating Officer, ADA