The push towards integration is just one of the several trends identified in the study, along with the rise of in-house marketing teams and the change in remuneration models.
“The shift towards integrated agencies is not surprising,” said Sabrina Lee, managing director of R3 China.
“This is in line with a global trend, but is even more prevalent in China where the fragmented market drives a preference for an integrated solution.”
“64.1 per cent of marketers in China want to work with more integrated agencies," Cesar Vacchiano, founding partner and CEO of SCOPEN (formerly Grupo Consultores), added.
"It is going to be very interesting to see the race towards reinforcing digital offerings in order to provide the integration that clients are demanding, ” he said.
It is not only digital agencies that are under pressure to improve their integrated offerings; marketers expect advertising and marketing services agencies to have digital capabilities as well, as study findings show.
The complexity of the Chinese market has been driving marketers to develop relationships with fewer, more trusted agency partners, and to stay with those partners for longer.
Throughout the past six years, marketers have been consolidating and lengthening agency partnerships, as seen from 2010 when they employed a multiple-specialist structure of as many as 14 agencies; to 2012 when they still adopted a 'concubine mindset' with roster agencies; to 2014 when they gradually reduced the number of agencies to 8.2 as their relationships mature and stabilise.
The latest wave of the study saw marketers work with just 6.4 partners this year.
In line with this trend of stabilisation, average client-agency relationships are up from over three years in 2014 to 3.8 years this time. However, this duration is still shorter compared to the global benchmark; so China has "some way to go", stated R3's Lee.
As with previous years, in-depth face-to-face interviews were conducted with 400 senior marketing decision-makers from more than 250 multinational and local companies in China to understand the process, perception and performance of the agencies they work with.