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November 10, 2022 • News

What are some of the issues impacting agencies today?

A review of the DBA 2022 Annual Survey Report

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it" – Ferris Bueller.

There were never truer words said, especially if you work in the marketing and advertising industry. It can feel impossible to keep track of trends, Google updates, client demands, social platforms, micro and macro changes. At times it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees, it’s important to take stock of things. As an agency owner it’s vital to see how your business is performing and just to measure how far you have come. Recently, the DBA (Design Business Association) released their 2022 Annual Survey Report looking at the current state of the creative, marketing and advertising agency landscape. Over 150 different creative agencies were surveyed and the results highlight some of the reoccurring concerns from agency owners. However, the report does reflect on some of the positive growth within the industry over the last few years. These are definitely uncertain times we are living in; nobody could have predicted when pandemics, energy price rises, cost of living crises, inflation at an all-time high, Brexit, wars, the death of our head of state or three Prime Ministers in a year might happen (that last one was a bit more predictable). Who knows what’s around the next corner, it can be difficult to make a plan with so much unpredictability. We break down some of the key findings from the DBA report and share our view about the future of the agency environment.

Things are on the up!

It’s not all doom and gloom, according to the DBA 2022 Annual Survey Report, confidence in overall business performance was extremely positive. With the vast majority of respondents claiming business is stable and growing, which is the highest proportion since before 2016. In days of old, marketing was a nice-to-have and was only really utilised by rich companies who could afford the luxury of hiring a branding agency. Attitudes towards marketing have shifted and the accessibility to marketing methods have become more achievable. Businesses are more aware of the importance of investing in creativity, there is so much competition and noise being made. Brands, big and small that choose to remain silent will disappear into obscurity. Some agencies saw an increase in new business during the pandemic, many businesses took advantage of COVID business loans to help secure their livelihood and invest in the future. This has had a positive impact on agencies who have worked with these businesses to help them with their marketing efforts.

Keeping the best talent

One of the biggest worries that the majority of agencies have is recruiting and retaining talent. Having the right team to deliver the quality of work your clients expect is an essential part to the success of any agency. So, why is it so difficult to retain talent? Many different factors come into play here, with so many businesses having to shut their offices due to COVID. It forced an unexpected change about the way we now work. New processes were implemented overnight, allowing staff to work from home. This opened up a whole new area of work/life balance, people realised they could work efficiently from the comfort of their home without having to sit in traffic or do the long commute. It also made it possible for anyone to work from anywhere which means you can cast the net a little wider than just the surrounding areas to capture the best talent for your agency. Inflation, the cost of living and the uncertainty in the economy has also played a part. People have more options about where they can work and what to expect from a workplace, they realise having a pool table at the office isn’t going to pay their bills and the calling of becoming a freelancer is quickly becoming very appealing. Even though the majority of agencies are planning wage rises in 2022 and into 2023 it still may not be enough to keep good talent engaged.

Managing costs

Keeping a close eye on the pennies and tightening belts is also impacting the day-to-day running of an agency. Managers are finding different ways to track the performance of their agencies through finances and staff capacity. Making sure that projects run on time and stay on budget, delivering clients' work without exceeding the quoted time and cost. According to the DBA survey results, the percentage of freelancers in the workforce has been steadily increasing over the past two years. Agencies could be looking for more cost-effective ways to bring in more income, one of which could be to offer additional services to their clients that they don’t normally do. This could be the reason for the increase in using freelancers.

Another possibility is that agencies don’t want to invest in hiring new staff just to deal with the influx of new clients, just in case clients leave due to the current economic crises. Agencies need to efficiently forecast the growth of their business by calculating a customer’s lifetime value and how much billable time one of your agency’s team members delivers. Expanding with overseas income Another noticeable result from the survey is the increase in overseas income, especially from the American market.

There could be a silver lining to the recent currency decline making the UK significantly more competitive. Some other potential views could be many UK agencies have branched out by opening additional offices across major cities around the world. It’s not uncommon, particularly with the larger agencies to have a presence in other countries to help increase income from foreign markets. Brands nowadays are looking beyond their local area and have dreams of selling right across the globe. One of the easiest ways to break into a new foreign market would be to hire an agency from that country as they would already be familiar with the current trends in their market and would also know the best way to communicate a message that would resonate with their audience.

Implementing the right processes

Everyone loves a process, right? A process can streamline work efforts taking out the thought in doing a task, it also reduces human error, if a process is followed correctly that is. Managing growth and profitability while juggling new processes and ways of working is a reoccurring issue that many agencies face.

Albert Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”, this is what a lot of agencies experience, the desire to grow and become more profitable is the expectation but the reality of achieving this goal isn’t as simple. There is a reluctance to seek a solution and implement new processes to improve agency performance, reason being, it takes time. Time to research new tools, time to implement a new process and time to spare without impacting productivity. There are so many quick fixes and off the shelf solutions that help for a while but there is a real threat that your agency is running with the use of multiple tools that all collate into a single spreadsheet. Finding the right process does take time but it ultimately it takes dedication.

What’s the answer?

The DBA 2022 Annual Survey Report has certainly highlighted some of the key findings that are affecting agencies right across the country. Even in the short space of time between collecting the survey feedback to publishing the results and releasing this blog, things have already changed and attitudes to new issues have moved on. So, what is the answer to being one step ahead? It’s adaptability. As creative minds, we should be natural at adapting, having to keep up with ever changing trends, what’s in fashion, learning new digital marketing techniques, having to please demanding clients that change their minds.

However, when it comes to making a change within your own agency, it seems to be an impossible task. We know, easier said than done. It’s all about being prepared, pre-empting possible scenarios that could impact your business. Lay down the right foundation within your agency, implement processes now rather than waiting for things to change. Learn to be proactive, rather than reactive to situations. You will appear to be more adaptable, but in fact you have planned well ahead for the future. Agencies are a collective hub of activity and creativity; clear communication is vital to their success. Juggling multiple clients, projects, teams, budgets and pitches, you could be forgiven if things slip through the net, but this could be costly to the performance of your agency. It’s important to keep track of every element of your agency using real time, accurate data to successfully forecast the trajectory of your business.

For over 40 years, we at Paprika have implemented our all-inclusive agency management software into hundreds of agencies, effectively transforming the way they run their business. Paprika is helping agencies become more productive, more efficient and more profitable. Keep track of the things that matter most to your agency, bringing your teams together and using real time data to make key business decisions. Book a demo for a non-obligation run through with one of our experts to show you the features that a transform your agency.