UK-based media agencies predict that their primary focus will shift from media buying and management to strategic and creative work.

The findings come from a survey of 100 UK media agencies and 100 advertiser respondents by dataxu with Sapio research, aiming to explore the expected transformation of agencies in the next five years, as client demands evolve.

At present, over 41% of media agencies feel that their primary focus lies within media buying and media management on behalf of their clients, with 43% currently offering media buying in ‘walled garden’ environments. By 2023, however, just a third (33%) expect to be offering the same, with operational consulting for clients predicted by most (38%) to become the main priority, while 36% forecast audience segmentation to be the top capability.

Meanwhile, asked what capabilities agencies needed to improve in order to stay relevant and ahead of the competition within the next five years, just shy of a quarter (23%) of advertisers responded “advanced analytics and data science”.

‘Struggling’ to adapt

At the tail-end of last year, a similar-sized international study by Infectious Media on 200 marketing decision makers saw 71% of advertisers claim that agencies had “struggled” to adapt to programmatic advertising, with the media-buying method accounting for four-fifths of all display spend in the US.  

Meanwhile, despite further concerns around agency roles in terms of providing transparency and tapering fraud, the research showed advertisers still considered agencies “valuable”. Infectious Media’s CEO suggested that they look to adopt a “flexible hybrid approach that caters to advertisers’ specific requirements”.