How Much is Your Multi-Agency Model Really Costing You?

Erin Strong | February 4, 2021

When leaders step into new roles, they inherit the good and the bad, from employees to multiyear service contracts. While some bad things are easily remedied, such as adjusting the team’s org chart to drive new efficiencies, other things are painful and time-consuming, like consolidating multiple marketing agencies. While it may be easier to put out other fires first, there are many reasons to review your marketing plan and agency relationships early in a new role. Namely, there are distinctive advantages of having a single-agency model vs. multi-agency model that can make a meaningful and immediate business impact if the partnership between the agency and in-house marketers is in balance.

Media Buying

Media buying is a lot like an auction house, and having multiple buyer-agency bidders representing you can mean you’re competing with yourself for placements and bidding up your own advertising costs. You may occasionally get a lower price if one agency underbids the others, but in those cases you could still lose cost efficiency. When the agencies create cost savings or discounts, it usually comes out of your working media budget rather than from reduced overhead. It’s critical to ask yourself, “What was actually cut from the plan to create this savings?”

The right agency partner will be well-versed in all types of media channels, including traditional and digital tactics, and will understand how to achieve the right media mix for your brand. Dividing media buying up among multiple agencies will only dilute the power of your dollars and complicate your reporting.

Creative Concepts

Some marketers believe that having multiple agency relationships yields more creative concepts, which may be true, but the value of 100 extra hands working on your brand without an understanding of its audience, goals, history, or locations isn’t really a benefit. Even 1,000 extra hands wouldn’t be a benefit if those hands weren’t well aligned to your brand strategy. Extra agencies often just mean miscommunications, misaligned marketing strategies, and the burden of having to educate multiple agency teams on your brand and each promotional update. For example, if one agency is running organic social and another is doing paid media, it may be unclear who is accountable for monitoring the hundreds of customer comments posted to your paid social ads.

Consolidating your marketing under a single agency model will save you time and effort. Having just one trusted partner leads to a holistic and harmonious plan, so signals don’t get crossed at the expense of your brand image.


One of the worst outcomes of a multiple-agency approach is that each agency believes positive marketing outcomes are the result of their singlehanded hard work and tactics. Each agency might provide you with glowing reports of their good work, but they may not know or mention that those reports are showing the halo effect of all of the agencies’ combined efforts.

When you use multiple agencies, they won’t have an attribution model to distinguish which tactics resulted in the best outcomes because they won’t have visibility into the other agencies’ work. Even if the agencies share cleaned-up reports and high-level conversations, these often scrape the seemingly irrelevant data about tactics another agency might be running that could lead to a major tactical breakthrough. If the agencies don’t know that you’re using other agencies or running other tactics, then their reports will be based on false assumptions and exclude trends that could serve your knowledge base.

While you could create internal reports to synthesize and compare each agency’s reports, the attribution model will still be convoluted and fragmented, because their individual assumptions and methodologies won’t align. As everyone who has done reporting knows, there are a lot of variables left to the discretion of the reporter, just like in accounting. Having to consolidate your agency reports also adds an internal burden to your plate when agencies are supposed to relieve your workload.

So, what’s a new leader to do if she inherits several multiyear agency relationships? While there are countless ways to consolidate, the fastest track would be to assimilate complementary tactics under each agency to disambiguate reports as much as possible, then to reduce the number of agencies when it’s possible. Rather than managing multiple contracts and educating multiple teams on your brand, it’s best to build a relationship with one trusted agency partner who can holistically champion the KPIs you care about most.

Unsure How To Get Started Consolidating Your Marketing?

Contact BrandMuscle to learn which sets of tactics are complementary and can be consolidated to reduce the complexity of having multiple agency partners.

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