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The verdict is in. Agencies want media companies to be more of an adviser and a go-to resource when it comes to crafting their marketing plans. Two thirds of agencies look to their media sales reps for marketing information and advice, according to a survey by Borrell Associates. And when asked how media companies could be more helpful, the top recommendation from agencies was “more advice/be a resource.”

The findings, from a survey of 446 agency reps conducted from April through July 2019, comes as radio companies are working to transform their sales forces from spot sellers into well-versed marketing consultants that can help clients navigate an increasingly complex advertising world. “The complexification of marketing may have spurred a symbiosis between agencies and media companies,” Borrell Associates CEO Gordon Borrell says.

Another initiative at many radio companies – providing better attribution of what their radio campaigns delivered – was the second most popular suggestion agencies had for how media companies can improve their partnerships with agencies. “Provide better metrics, tracking, effectiveness, ROI” came in second among agency suggestions. It was followed by “more follow-up/regular communications/responsiveness” in third place. After that, agencies want media companies to “build the relationship/partnership” (fourth place) and “listen to us/learn about us/ask questions” (fifth).

While agencies are typically savvier at media planning than direct buyers, they still need help putting the marketing jigsaw puzzle together, says Borrell VP of Research Corey Elliott. “And remember, the jigsaw pieces are not just radio spots or newspaper ads or even targeted digital ads,” he says. They span a much wider gamut to include website content, social media presence, email list management, loyalty programs, location-based marketing and other components. While no single local media provider can possibly offer every piece of that marketing puzzle, Elliott says there is a “subtle nuance” to what agencies want from their media partners. “Agencies and direct buyers are telling us that understanding what your product is – call it product knowledge – is not as important as understanding what that product contributes to an overall strategy,” he explains.

Returning to the puzzle analogy, Elliott elaborates: “Product knowledge is understanding one single piece of the puzzle. If you have that, you can fit some of your pieces together to create part of the puzzle. And that is where most reps and providers stop. The ones who can say, ‘My pieces fit together to create the unicorn that is located in the upper right of the puzzle’ is what agencies want.”

When it comes to their biggest concerns, proving ROI for campaign investments came in at No. 1, cited by 74% of agencies. Next are staying up-to-date with the competition (54%) and concerns with brands pressing them for project-based or one-off engagements instead of longer-term contracts (49%).