Why is there a lack of digital marketing client- agency trust? An inductive thematic analysis of the contemporary challenges facing client-agency trust relationships

Iredale, S 2020, Why is there a lack of digital marketing client- agency trust? An inductive thematic analysis of the contemporary challenges facing client-agency trust relationships , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Abstract

This study examines the contemporary challenges facing client-agency trust relationships in a digital marketing setting. The digital marketing industry is currently struggling with a crisis of client-agency trust. Research has identified that client trust in digital marketing agencies is declining. However, current scholarly debate has stalled, where inquiry into client-agency trust relationships in contemporary and digitised environments is lacking. The current study is the first of its kind to illuminate client-agency trust issues derived from a black box digital marketing ecosystem, dominated by an omnipotent Internet Oligopoly (IO). The IO comprise online media and advertising platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. Findings derive from the inductive thematic analysis of 32 in-depth interviews with multiple digital marketing stakeholders, undertaken between 2016-2018. They comprise 12 clients, 11 agents, 3 training providers, 3 procurement specialists, 1 trade association, 1 lawyer and 1 recruitment agent. The current study makes the claim that the IO and their volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous ecosystem, have the power to negatively influence client-agency performance outcomes. More specifically, it is found that unknown and unknowable top-down influences impair the ability to attribute digital marketing activity to performance data with any great confidence. A threat of unconscious and conscious opportunism within the client-agency relationship emerges, where poor performance may be blamed upon the perceived influence of the IO, against the better knowledge of the client, and often, the agent. Questions over accountability for outcomes are raised. Furthermore, it is found that digital marketing knowledge may be constructed from misattributed performance data resulting in weak-form evidence. Such fallible evidence may be used by agents in order to support claims to trustworthiness and benchmarks for best practice. An original contribution to knowledge is made where empirical findings challenge dominant rationalist and relational assumptions of client-agency trust in contemporary digital marketing settings. An original BAAKE framework (Benchmark, Attribution, Accountability, Knowledge, Ecosystem) is created, in order to represent such contemporary challenges to client-agency trust, along the client-agency lifecycle.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School
Depositing User: Sophie Iredale
Date Deposited: 07 Aug 2020 09:03
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2020 09:03
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/57748

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