November 23, 2016 / David Paragamian
Your Job is Hard. And Maybe—Just Maybe—Your Agencies Made it Harder

In case you haven’t thought about it, the average length of a client-agency relationship is less than four years.

The average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer is even shorter—less than two years. If that also gets you thinking about how stressful life is for brand marketers on the front line, one of the major sources of your stress could be your agencies—the very folks you pay to make your life easier.

That anxiety you feel long before you’ve finished your morning coffee is, of course, multi-factored. We’re living in a healthcare marketing world in which the tectonic plates have shifted. The blockbuster era is, indeed, over. One size doesn’t fit all (if it ever did). Brand marketers in the pharma/biotech/healthcare space have moved to an understanding that multichannel or omni-channel marketing is the new norm. In fact, we no longer need the prefixes “multi” or “omni,” as it’s expected that our campaigns will be across many surfaces—the old face-to-face selling, but with a strong online and social presence.

In today’s era of personalized medicine, we must know precisely which patient population will respond best, target the right healthcare professionals, and craft strong messages that resonate across channels. Brand management has gotten harder.

Enter the multi-agency relationship. Attending a brand planning session for a major brand today often means sitting at the table with the “HCP agency,” the “direct to patient/consumer” agency, the digital agency, the PR agency, and the list goes on. True story: I recently attended an annual business planning session for a major brand where the client had seven (yes, SEVEN!) retained agencies at the table. Simply managing so many valued partners, returning that many calls to account leaders, and sharing critical success factors across the agencies, is stressful.

Seamless Integration: Possible?


Adding seven AOR-like voices at the table creates added complexity for brand teams, as seamless integration can never truly be achieved, even with the best intentions. Each agency sees the strategy through the prism of their own discipline and measurement is sometimes poles apart. It’s left to the brand manager to smooth out the inconsistencies to develop communications that lead to coherent, long-term engagements with their customers.

Paring down the roster of agencies needn’t be a sacrifice. The trade-off for working with a single agency that can create in a digital-first world and adds real value is a more effective environment to work in—plus reduces stress for brand managers. A nimble agency that’s able to integrate and leverage strategy, analytics, targeting, measurement, and media—those agencies can simplify the challenges and truly be a partner to brand marketers. They do exist but they are different, and they’re uniquely built to deliver against today’s demanding marketing backdrop.

True, brand management did get harder. The communications landscape did get more complex. But it’s at these times when the right agency not only helps navigate, but also truly helps marketers lead.

David Paragamian / Managing Director

With over 25 years of experience in healthcare communications and marketing both on the client and agency side of the business, David is also an adjunct faculty member at the Erivan Haub Graduate School of Business at St. Joseph’s University where he teaches brand management. David is a published author and speaker on the subject of branding.