Research puts spotlight on the role of agencies in social media with 50% of brands investing in dedicated social staff

Study from ISBA and Havas Media Social finds that 3 out of 4 CEOs now appreciate the importance of social media to their business

Agencies need to up their game to keep up with their clients in social media, according to brand new research from ISBA, the voice of British advertisers and Havas Media Social. The survey, conducted across 50 senior level marketers amongst ISBA’s membership, found that 50% of brands have invested in a dedicated in-house social media resource, such as community managers or executives. However, 96% of brands still require the use of an agency, with the most popular needs being design and build (66%), strategy (64%) and wider creative executions (52%).

And brands are now in it for the long term, 78% of respondents believed that social media should be seen as an ongoing investment, with 72% feeling their CEO now understands the importance of social media.

ISBA and Havas Media Social surveyed 50 brands spanning the consumer goods, telecommunications, finance, fashion, entertainment and automotive sectors. They also conducted in-depth interviews to establish the current challenges for brands in social media today, including what kind of social media activities they were currently involved in, how they were set up internally to integrate social media into their organisation and how they work with agencies.

Reflecting the growth in significance of social marketing in the UK, the study found that 100% of respondents were involved in social media in some way, with two thirds (66%) of brands also having a social media strategy. In addition, almost half of brands (48%) have a social media steering group, with two thirds of the remainder looking to set one up in the near future.

The study revealed five main considerations for brands over the next twelve months, ranging from business challenges to how the client/agency relationship should evolve.
1. Evolving strategies and becoming a ‘social’ brand. The research found that marketers recognise the need to take their social strategies one step further. 100% of respondents were involved in social in some way, with 78% stating that social is a long-term commitment, meaning that more advertisers are developing serious strategies and enlisting agencies to develop them accordingly. However some respondents highlighted the need to evolve, creating strategies for social brands, rather than simply planning social executions in isolation.

2. Business integration: taking social out of the silo. There remained some uncertainty about where social media sits within organisations. 40% of brands cited the PR department as having the main responsibility for social media activity, with 20% stating the marketing department took the lead, and 10% believing the customer service department took ownership. However almost half (48%) brands had taken steps to take social out of the silo in organisations, with the establishment of a social media steering group to make the brand’s voice consistent across all forms of social activity.

3. The need for creativity and building brands. The measurement of conversation appears to have moved on, with 86% of respondents believing that social media is best at building brands. The most popular uses for agencies was design and build (66%) and wider creative implementation (62%) signaling a further need for brands to treat social media as an inherently creative channel.

4. Social media becoming more about the ‘media’ – almost a fifth (18%) of brand respondents required the use of an agency to create and buy social media ads. In addition, in-depth interviews revealed that many brands are finding social media a ‘crowded’ place, signaling the increased need for social media signposting and greater advertising investment to make their social presence stand out.

5. Brands versus agencies – in-house investment and the role of the agency. More and more advertisers are investing in dedicated social media resource in-house, with a strong argument that whilst agencies can be the eyes and ears of a brand, they should rarely be their mouths. Whilst 58% of brands were conducting some form of social media activity in-house, such as monitoring or online PR, some 50% of respondents now have a dedicated in-house resource. The study found that the agency role has had to evolve to provide broader strategic thinking and innovative ideas and executions, whilst almost a third (32%) of brands rely on agencies to provide them with education and training.

Amy Kean, Director of Social Media at Havas Media Social said: “Over the past twelve months, developments in advertising formats, self-regulation and measurement have meant that social media is more robust than ever. Our research has found that brands not only see the significance of social, but they are beginning to integrate it within their wider business with holistic strategies and steering groups that span the organisation. Whilst there may still exist a disconnect between what brands feel social media is best at and what they’re currently using it for, our study confirms that they’re definitely in it for the long-term.”

David Ellison, Marketing Services Manager for ISBA said: “Members of ISBA’s Digital Action Group has consistently identified social media as an important marketing tool over the last couple of years. However, no one individual or team should be wholly responsible for social media internally, and over the last year many of our members have felt that internal communication should be improved that the various social media offerings should be aligned. This research shows that advertisers, whilst still concerned with the 'integration' issue, are taking great strides to take social out of the silo and establish strong steering groups to ensure that all activity is consistent and the brand talks to consumers with one unified voice."

Jude Brooks, digital activation manager at Coca Cola said: "As brands engage more and more in social media, our learning and confidence increases, and it is inevitable that some brands will bring responsibility for social in-house. While this will inevitably lead to a re-think of the role for agencies, this research shows that good agencies need not panic; specialists who can bring innovative and creative solutions will always be needed and valued."

Information on Havas Media Social
Havas Media Social sits at the very heart Havas Media UK, which is one of the world’s fastest growing media networks.
A full service social media offering, we offer wholly integrated social media campaigns and strategies, working with 4 award-winning UK agencies:
- ais… is a highly inspirational, integrated creative agency.
- Arena Quantum is an innovative, experienced media agency, with its own social brand, 247 Social.
- Cake is a world-famous, immensely adored PR, social and experiential agency.
- MPG Media Contacts is a bold, intelligent media agency which places its social team, Socialyse, at the very core of the business
And combined, they present an extremely powerful, social proposition.
Our access to the very best in creativity, media and experiential expertise allows Havas Media Social to provide the most holistic solutions for our broad spectrum of clients, working across all sectors.
Further information can be found at

Information on ISBA
ISBA is the representative body for British advertisers
• Over 430 of the UK’s foremost advertisers are in membership
• ISBA represents in excess of £10 billion spend on marketing communications
• ISBA is a strong single voice.
• Our remit covers EU and UK regulatory and legislative affairs, all media advertising including digital/online, direct marketing, sales promotion, public relations, sustainability and sponsorship.
• Dual role – to protect advertisers interests on all issues relating to marketing communications, and to provide support, guidance and contemporary independent direction on industry developments.
• ISBA provides practical consultancy and guidance to members on all client/agency relationship issues and queries including search and selection, remuneration benchmarking, contract evaluation and negotiation, process efficiency, re-engineering and industry custom and practice, most services are included in the subscription. It educates its members. In 2010 the team worked on 1600 individual projects with members such as Coca-Cola, Tesco, BT, Diageo, ABF, British Airways and many more.

Further information can be found at

Published on: 5:34PM on 12th October 2011