The Ghosting Phenomenon: Why Marketing Managers Sometimes Disappear on Agencies

Ghosting? Sounds rather ominous. In fact, it is a bit menacing. In personal relationships, particularly in the context of dating, ghosting is described as suddenly ending communication with someone without explanation. However, ghosting is increasingly observed in business relationships, particularly between marketing managers and advertising agencies. Okay, why do marketing managers sometimes think it’s acceptable to ghost an agency? Truth is, ghosting doesn’t simply impact the ghosted, it can also be detrimental to the ghoster! Ghosting can be considered unethical and insulting to the agency, implying they aren’t worthy of respect. On the other hand, if word gets out that a client ghosts agencies, it can make it harder for them to find talented agencies in the future. And these are but a few examples of the consequences of ghosting. Let’s further explore some of the underlying reasons and the broader implications of this practice.

Understanding the Ghosting Behavior


  1. Overwhelming Workload:

    Marketing managers often juggle multiple responsibilities with tight deadlines. When overwhelmed, they may give precedence to urgent internal tasks over responding to agency communications, leading to unintended ghosting.

  2. Misaligned Expectations:

    If an agency’s output doesn’t meet the marketing manager’s expectations or perhaps there is a disconnect in understanding the project’s goals, the manager might decide it’s just easier to avoid confrontation by ghosting rather than addressing the issues at hand.

  3. Internal Politics:

    Occasionally, decisions within a company can be prompted by internal politics. Marketing managers might ghost an agency due to shifts in internal priorities or directives from higher-ups, even though they might personally value the agency’s work.

  4. Lack of Communication Skills:

    Effective communication is not everyone’s strong suit. Some marketing managers may resist giving feedback or discussing challenges openly, leading them to simply avoid communication altogether.

  5. Resource Constraints:

    Budget cuts or the reallocation of resources can lead to a halt in projects involving external agencies. Marketing managers might ghost agencies because they lack the resources to continue the arrangement but don’t possess the wherewithal to properly explain the situation.

  6. Changing Priorities:

    Business environments are dynamic, and priorities can shift quite rapidly. Marketing managers may ghost agencies when their company’s strategic focus changes abruptly, leaving little or no time for formal separation.

The Impact on Agencies:


  1. Resource Wastage:

    Agencies invest time and resources into ongoing projects. Ghosting can lead to wasted efforts and financial losses, especially if the agency continues to work under the assumption that the project is still alive.

  2. Damaged Morale:

    Ghosting can be particularly demoralizing for agency teams. It can lead to frustration and resentment, impacting the team’s overall productivity and enthusiasm.

  3. Uncertainty and Instability:

    Lack of communication leaves agencies in limbo, uncertain as to whether to pause, pivot or proceed with the project. This instability can disrupt project timelines and affect other client commitments.

  4. Strained Relationships:

    Ghosting damages the professional relationship, making it difficult for the agency to trust and collaborate effectively with the marketing manager.

Addressing the Issue: A Call for Better Practices


  1. Open Communication Channels:

    Both parties should establish open communication channels from the get-go. Routine check-ins and updates can help keep everyone on the same page and prevent misunderstandings.

  2. Set Clear Expectations:

    Agencies and marketing managers should agree on expectations, deliverables and timelines at the outset. Clear agreements can help manage such expectations and reduce the likelihood of ghosting due to dissatisfaction.

  3. Feedback Mechanisms:

    Encourage a culture of feedback where concerns and issues can be discussed openly. Constructive feedback can resolve issues before they escalate to the point of ghosting.

  4. Professional Courtesy:

    Regardless of the circumstances, maintaining professional courtesy is vital. Marketing managers should strive to inform agencies of any changes or decisions, even if they are negative. This transparency fosters respect and professionalism.

  5. Crisis Management Plans:

    Agencies should develop contingency plans for handling ghosting situations. This includes placing clauses in contracts to address communication lapses and to ensure there are protocols for following up on unresponsive clients.

As we’ve seen, ghosting is a detrimental practice that harms both marketing managers and agencies. Understanding the reasons behind this behavior is the first step in addressing it. By fostering open communication, setting clear expectations, and maintaining professional courtesy, both parties can build stronger, more resilient relationships. For marketing managers, recognizing the impact of ghosting and striving to maintain transparency with the agency can set in motion more successful and mutually beneficial partnerships. Meanwhile, agencies can protect themselves by developing robust communication protocols and contingency plans. At day’s end, respect and effective communication are key to avoiding ghosting and ensuring productive alliances.

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