8 Lessons for Managing Agency Relationships

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Advertisers are constantly striving to do more marketing with less budget, looking for efficiencies and ways to reduce wasteful spend and efforts while working with agency partners, according to Bruno Gralpois, co-founder of Agency Mania Solutions and the author of the newly released Agency Mania, 2nd Edition. “And doing so, obviously they’re compromising the quality and effectiveness of the work itself,” he said during a recent Adweek webinar, sponsored by OpenText Hightail.

This can lead to issues between what the client wants and what the client can actually pay for, as well as several other misunderstandings along the way. Gralpois added, “Some advertisers have actually perfected the art form of driving their agency partners crazy.” In client/agency evaluations his company has conducted, “8 ways clients drive their agencies insane” were uncovered, as well as the lessons that clients should learn from them:

1.   Ask for strategic work to be rushed. 

Advertisers want quality thinking, but often rush the work, skip scopes or briefs altogether and give agencies rigorous (and ridiculous) deadlines.

Lesson for clients: Clients must give agencies enough time to come up with great solutions and allow them to be a valued partner.

2.   Keep information to yourself. 

Advertisers often share too little information on things that matter to the work and to the partnership, and then wonder why agencies don’t have stronger insights or better ideas.

Lesson for clients: Share data and actionable insights openly and treat agencies as partners.

3.   Change your mind frequently for less than obvious reasons. 

Business priorities change, but it’s important to take the time to educate agency partners as to why there’s a change of direction.

Lesson for clients:  Agencies are more understanding and supportive when they the nature of the change has been communicated, whether it’s a change of strategy, priorities or budget.

4.   Ask agencies to write the brief themselves. 

Too many advertisers ask agencies to write their own scopes or briefs, when this direction should be coming from the client.

Lesson for clients: Co-authoring is an option that allows both partners to articulate why and how this assignment is important—but make sure to retain ownership of the content, strategy and objectives beneath that. For additional best practices on how to write a creative brief, check out this Adweek article.

5.   Pretend to be the final decision maker (but are not!): 

Clients often make it difficult for agencies to know who the final decision maker in the room is. Too many people have input and there’s not enough clarity about who does what or who’s accountable.

Lesson for clients: Manage the process of getting input from others, but have only one clear decision-maker. Clarify roles and responsibilities, so there is no confusion. Always remember that confusion here equals wasted time, which then equals wasted spend—and nobody can afford that, so communicate accordingly.

6.   Treat agencies as order-takers.

If you treat your agency like order-takers, that’s likely what you’ll get. It’s much better to state the problem, and let the agency figure out the solution.

Lesson for clients: If you want more, do more. If you want strategy, state what you’re looking for and why but not how to get there—because ultimately that’s really the role of the agency.

7.   Jump into work without clarity of goals or preparation. 

Too many times, clients will ask agencies to start work immediately, so there is no clarity on role and no prep work has been done. This leads to false starts, and ultimately poor results.

Lesson for clients: Take the time as a client to do your homework and set the agency up for success. Set clear goals for your agency and see what they can do for you.

8.   Demand strategic, innovative ideas but can’t afford them. 

“Too many clients expect breakthrough thinking or filet mignon and foie gras and champagne on a McDonald’s budget,” Gralpois said. “It doesn’t work.”

Lesson for clients: Only ask for ideas that you have the ability and the willingness as a client to execute.

Watch the webinar on demand for more brand/agency relationship insights. And read our Adweek article for actions you can take right now to improve those relationships.

Webinar host: Bruno Gralpois, Co-Founder and Principal, Agency Mania Solutions

Written by: Linda Zid, OpenText Hightail

March 6, 2019