Should agencies encourage their clients to take more risks?

And when it comes to risk-taking in marketing, the riskiest kind is that which takes no risks

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While it's clearly true from the agency point of view that the motto 'innovate or die' is as pertinent as ever - new ideas are their core business, after all - today's economic uncertainty is hugely restrictive on business decision-making. That will inevitably also have an impact on brands and their marketing.


There's already plenty of data to show businesses have reduced investment since the Brexit vote in 2016, and it's hard to blame them. No one yet knows what kind of market they will be operating in come 29 March, the supposed date of B-Day - if, indeed, it goes ahead as scheduled.


For many marketers, too, the risks of making big bets on campaign activity or investment in the customer experience will be too great until there is more clarity. What if supplies are cut off in the event of no deal? What if sterling collapses and import prices skyrocket? These things could have a direct impact on many brands' products and services, potentially leaving them unable to fulfil whatever bold promise their marketing sets out to make today.


But there is another side to this argument. It's often noted that the brands that survive tough economic times in the healthiest condition are those that don't slash marketing investment as discretionary spending. The fact we don't know how long the Brexit uncertainty will persist is all the more argument for - at the very least - staying visible and relevant. The worst outcome of all is that customers forget about you.


And when it comes to risk-taking in marketing, the riskiest kind is that which takes no risks - that which doesn't stand out.  


While clients should know this, agencies may need to be the ones to push the case for overcoming business inertia. However they'll also need the financial literacy and the hard data to do it in a way that marketers can sell to their board.


Michael Barnett

Special projects editor, Marketing Week