9 Reasons Why Advertising Agencies Are Failing

9 Reasons Why Advertising Agencies Are Failing

As of late there has been a serious drop in the quality of Ads and general accountability of Ad Agencies.

Over the past 4 months alone, I’ve had 3 clients tell me that they are unhappy with their Advertising Agency. Furthermore, they are going to hire and manage designers in-house… 🤦🏽‍♂️

The creative industry that was booming with ground breaking ideas and emotionally engaging executions in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s have flatlined. In addition, businesses are starting to see Ad Agencies as luxuries rather than necessities in marcom.

However, I still believe the Ad Agency should remain a key player in communication as the essential mediator between consumer and producer.

The following are some of the common denominators I have come across while consulting with clients.




Sales is the lifeblood of any business, It keeps enterprise in motion.

An Ad campaign does not end with a client approved production estimate or creative visuals. You (The Collective Agency) have to ensure that your ideas convert into sales by any means necessary.

Moreover, A good idea should not only make sense, It should make cents. The more cents the more sense.  Makes sense?

🔑An agency that generates sales is an asset to any client.


Self explanatory

I come across the following quite frequently with agency briefs.

Who are we talking to?
“Urban Males and Females between 25-35”

Unfortunately, this marketing 2.0 targeting is very lethargic and not specific enough. With a generic target audience like that you can only expect to have generic Ideas, generic executions and if you are lucky any sales at all.

Consequently, Ad targeting on digital platforms becomes generic too. You end up spending more money to make less. Resulting in lower CTRs and Higher CPAs. (And heaven forbid you are targeting impressions with these paid ad campaigns)

We are living in the age of abundance. The modern consumer is equipped with options, lifestyle choices, peer recommendations and more…  

Saying Urban males and females between 25-35 as a target audience is the equivalent of saying the target audience listens to music… Well by all means i’m sure they do listen to music… However,

What kind of music?
When do they listen to music?
How do they consume music?
Why do they listen to that specific genre of music?
How much time/money do they spend on music?

🔑The keys to understanding your target audience lies in psycho-graphics.  (Strategists your guidance and data insights will be instrumental here)


Ok… so you have a client brief, Great! Before you excitedly go into brainstorm sessions with free flowing 🍺🌿🚬 you have to first validate the brief.

There’s an old Russian proverb that says  “Doveryai, no proveryai” Which means “Trust but verify”. A client brief should focus on the problem the client is facing in the marketplace. The client brief is your holy grail until the ad campaign ends. It is the backdrop for creative inspiration.

Think of the briefing process like a doctor trying to diagnose a patient. You have to work upstream with the symptoms to get to the root problem.

Clients can help here by giving sufficient data to the agencies about

-Competitor Activity
-Market Share/insights
-Macro/Micro economic factors affecting the business
-Consumer feedback
-Qualitative/Quantitative Research Data

Alternatively, Agencies can help here by

-Not trying to be too creative with your briefs. (Stick to facts and stats)
-Asking questions that challenge your briefs

🔑Study your clients business thoroughly. Know their business like the back of your own hand



The quickest way to lose agency credibility is to over promise and under deliver. Always under promise and over deliver. Work diligently, Have patience and let the results do the talking. They will grant you leverage over time.

Pitching for Ad accounts can be quite overwhelming and exhausting at times. Especially if it is a big account. It’s a massive free for all with Ad Agencies all competing for that big account💸.


🔑A pitch is not to assess your creativity or production capability. Moreover, a pitch is to evaluate which agency understands the clients vision for the future. Where the client needs to be in the future and why the client needs to be there.


You’ve got to know when to hold em got know when to fold em dear creatives.

As much as you are convinced that you have a winning idea, You have to be able to back that idea up with data. Having a good idea doesn’t mean anything anymore if it isn’t backed by data.  Be willing to drop your pencils,stencils,brushes and easels when you find yourself lost in your own idea.


If you believe your idea is good and you have data to back your idea, Stand your ground. Explain your idea passionately but without being too emotional. Give your rationale as to why you believe it will work.

It is very reassuring to see creatives not being too emotional about their ideas but are able to openly discuss, take feedback/criticism constructively and intelligently.

All creatives have an inherent fear of being ridiculed. Of not having their work approved. If clients notice that you aren’t confident enough that the idea will work, Then the risk to reward is too high to invest.

🔑Trust the data,your gut and stand your ground or stop beating the dead horse and go work on a better idea


If you didn’t get the ironies please consider handing in your resignations today

Nope, I’m not referring to those emails that you receive about making $1,000,000 if you invest in forex trading today. Or that random text message that says “Congratulations you are the lucky winner please send your bank details to claim your prize”

I’m talking about the unscrupulous act of staging Ad Campaigns purely for the purpose of winning creative awards. Scam Ad campaigns have cheapened and sabotaged the creative industry of today. 

I have personally witnessed Ad Agencies colluding with their clients to stage Ad Campaigns for (Insert Condiment ) Ad festivals

This façade advertising is very dangerous. Furthermore, it is misleading to the young bloods (Gen X, Y and Z). It sets a really bad example of creative integrity.

🔑Scam Ad Campaigns are the main reason why agency trust is at an all time low.

Creative award festivals today are like the Oscars. Nobody apart from those who are in it care about them.

Having attended a few of these creative award ceremonies i can honestly say the only things that come out of it are vanity, hedonism and a my-agency-is-better-that-yours attitude.

Besides, there is this myopia among the old dogs, That the more awards you win the more clients will keep knocking at your door. Well yes, the poor unsuspecting client would, but if you keep staging scam ads trying to lure clients in only to disappoint a client with ineffective advertising, You are part of the problem. So please stop that nonsense immediately and regain back some creative integrity.

If you were/are involved in a Scam Ad Campaign for your client or agency, Really take a step back and re-think why you are in this industry in the first place. And have the courage to walk away from these unscrupulous practices. Or pick a different career. The creative industry should be reserved for those with an unrelenting passion for authentic and honest expression.

🔑If your idea is powerful and tugs at the emotions of people you have already won. The awards that may come with it are just bonuses.



I get it. The more the client spends on media the higher the agency commission on media spend.

An elaborate media spread should do the trick right? And hey even if users don’t purchase at least they will have top of mind recall when they see the Ad right?

Wrong. Chuck this marketing 2.0 concept out of the window right now. 

Overselling was a push strategy that was effective during times when media was less fragmented.

Digital platforms today give users the right to opt out or report certain ads that come across too strong. (Refer to Oversold Case study for further reading)

Seeing the same Ad over and over again wherever you go is very annoying not to mention it is a waste of money. It disrupts the Viewer Experience Expectancy on digital platforms. The brand gets negative positioning and bad recall purely because of overselling.

🔑The modern consumer would rather find a bargain than be sold a bargain



No matter how creative you are, There is a finite amount of energy that you can tap into every day to get those creative juices flowing. Like a mobile phone that needs charging you need to ensure that your creative juices are spent wisely at work and that you have outlets to recharge yourself when you are done with work. Agency owners should become more aware of their creative force. And give them the freedom and the flexibility to think. Creative burnouts only spell disaster for the agencies creative output in the long run.

🔑 If you notice that you have run into “the wall” or “writers block” etc. Stop what you are doing and take a walk, climb a hill, meditate or go home and recharge your batteries.  Get back when you are fully charged and smash those ideas.


Global Ad spend in 2019 was $560bn. Half of the total ad spend was in Digital

Whilst Radio already has one foot out the door, TV(scheduled) and newspapers are next in line to become outdated media.

I still see agencies holding on to conventional media like a drowning man holding on to a straw.

The rate cards of these “outdating” mediums will either only get more expensive over time due to lower demand or stations will get desperate and lower prices.

If your target audience isn’t consuming conventional media you are just wasting time, energy and money with ineffective mediums. And above all you have failed to evolve as an Ad agency.

🔑 Data technology, Digital platforms and Mobile are now the front runners in communication mediums.

I hope that the aforementioned will provide a call to action to you My mad men/women in the Ideas business, The round pegs in the square holes, the non conformists… To take back some control, raise the bar on yourself and the creative industry as a whole.

Good Luck🎨

Spread the word. Share this post!

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *