Marketing executives are longing to be challenged by their agencies, but only 3 percent say agencies are actually leading the charge for innovation, according to The CMO Challenge, a new study conducted by Horn Group, a digital communications agency, and Kelton Research, a market research and strategy consultancy.

“One goal of The CMO Challenge was to find out what CMOs really want, and it’s clear: agencies need to be more disruptive in presenting bold ideas and driving change,” says Shannon Latta of Horn Group. “We also set out to better understand the skepticism and enthusiasm that coexists around the integrated agency model. Marketers love the idea of maintaining a cohesive, breakthrough voice for their brands, but they haven’t seen enough agencies deliver on the promise of the integrated agency to do that under one roof.”

When hiring an agency, CMOs say the ability to execute is seven times more important than reputation and twice as important as cost. Collaboration is also highly valued, with over two-thirds (68 percent) of marketing execs saying they prefer to work with small agencies (less than 50 people).
While 70 percent of marketing executives say they’d eventually like to work with a smaller roster of capable firms, 60 percent of CMOs have found it difficult to find an integrated, full-service shop to meet their needs.

“The ideal agency would be highly strategic, understand our business, help orchestrate our integrated communications efforts and deliver measurable results,” says Gannon Hall, EVP of global marketing at KIT Digital. “Agencies should take a more dynamic approach to delivering results and de-emphasize specialized services. I’m interested in building awareness, demand and revenue – not in social media, PR and messaging.”

Over half of marketing execs (55 percent) attribute internal, not external, factors as a bigger roadblock to leveraging an integrated approach. Making matters worse is that many of today’s businesses feel painfully behind the times with the most important kinds of integration. More than two-thirds (68 percent) feel their companies are behind the curve in digital/interactive media integration, while another 71 percent have not caught up to social media integration.

The CMO Challenge study also found that agencies are expected to be more valuable in the years to come (according to 72 percent), as marketing executives foresee more integration and, therefore, partnerships with fewer firms. Over three in four (78 percent) marketers also believe that integration will be more important and 64 percent think agencies will be more interactive by 2016.