Advertisers, Get Off Your Agency’s Back!

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Advertisers, if you want success, it’s time to get off your agency’s back.

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You’re thinking, “But why? I’m paying them!” Yes, you foot the bill to retain a brilliant agency to extend your creative thinking and help you meet your goals, so shouldn’t they do what you say? Yes, they should, but you also owe them agility, collaboration and some breathing room to deliver their best results. In the climb to be one of the top brands in the world, isn’t that what you want? It’s time to be better stewards of the client/agency relationship and back off.

Advertisers often expect their agency to think, communicate and behave like advertisers do. They expect loyalty and patience but struggle to return the favor. Clients demand a lot but tend to forget that they must give in equal parts, as the true essence of partnership is winning and failing together.

The relationship between client and agency doesn’t work without clear guidance and communication from the client. Just ask the 63% of marketers who aren’t willing to share meaningful KPIs with their agency team, according to Advertiser Perceptions. If a project or a campaign was a flop with the CEO and executives, back off the agency and ask yourself if both sides were working toward the same KPIs. Although the two sides of the relationship may keep score differently or value different outcomes and processes, they must align behind a set of clear, tangible KPIs.

Effective collaboration

Do KPIs seem too high-level for your agency? Then let’s talk basic communication. Despite a lack of information and communication, most agencies will bend over backward for their clients. Agencies treasure the work they do and stretch the limits of their budgets, just to get the job done for you, their client. However, many relationships fail because expectations were never articulated or shared openly. Share your goals early in the planning process so the agency can make them their own. If you’re six months into the campaign and the agency isn’t making progress, back off and consider if you were transparent with your expectations in the scoping and project input briefing process. We know how busy your day is, but chances are, you left some critical scoping questions unanswered, leaving the agency team to guess and take on great risk.

Advertisers and agencies are supposed to be different, but a relationship between them only works if they commit to effective collaboration. Agency reviews are at an all-time high. While much of this is due to talent turnover and a shift to project work and deliverable-based agreements, this number will only grow if agencies aren’t given the opportunity to improve from your honest, direct feedback.

No relationship can survive without constructive feedback and discussions about how to improve the partnership. Next time you’re wondering why your agency is doing the same ol’ thing — something that no longer provides value to your program — back off and set up an evaluation of your program and process. Do whatever you can to correct the behavior and avoid yet another headlining agency review cycle.

Delivering great work

It’s certainly a two-way street, as agencies have their own challenges, but advertisers and their agencies must push each other to leverage the unique ambitions, characteristics and subject matter expertise they each bring to the table. When they do, the work is easier to produce and simply more impactful. Agility and collaboration are, and must remain, the focal point of any successful, long-term relationship. And when your agency occasionally asks you for space to think creatively, come up with out-of-the-box ideas and push the envelope, back off and let them show you what they’re made of.

If you’ve done all of the above, give your agency some space and autonomy to deliver their best work.

By Bruno Gralpois, Co-Founder & Principal of Agency Mania Solutions

March 14, 2018