Client-Agency Relationship: A ChasmJuly 19, 2018
A complex relation between client and agency where both deal with seemingly abstract things like brands, perceptions and ideas, and struggle to get a grip on the intangible process and delivery, the compatibility and tussle of ideas and perspectives will always render the relationship as volatile, emotionally engrossing, and running on thin line of concurrence and trust.
Making sustainable relationship
To make this relationship effective and sustainable, both client and the agency have to collaborate at a substantial level. By nature, this relationship is one of the most complex in the business environment and need conscious nurturing as well as focus on the expectations. The longevity of an agency-client relationship is always durable when both parties work together with respect, without treating the other as just another vendor, or just another business.
Over these years with the evolution of technology, and multiplication of media and digital channels and possibilities, the marketing has undergone a vast change and stands today as a complex structure of many touch points. Full service agencies of yesteryear have not proved adaptable enough to keep pace and diversify with the multitude of platforms thronging our media every other day. There are fewer agencies in some metro cities like advertising agencies in Gurgaon or Delhi that offer services and expertise to cover the entire spectrum of marketing minefield. Greater specialization in every aspect of marketing is driving the diversification of agencies into specific areas of expertise. It is has become a strenuous task for clients to manage many specialized agencies and bring them all under one integrated umbrella of marketing communications. Increased influence and position of social media into marketing communications space has further blurred the functions such as digital marketing strategies, advertising, public relation, etc. A convergence is happening, an overlapping of otherwise distinct spheres which is helping brands and businesses, making clients more demanding and enthusiastic. Agencies have taken these developments in stride and adapted to multi-specialty approach but with little success. Clients prefer specialization and hence hire multiple agencies across the spectrum.
On the other hand, agencies complain of having to deal with too many decision makers on client side. The corporate hierarchy is often responsible for a ladder of decision making which delays decisions at critical stages and increases frustration. This also leads to lower-level rejections of brilliant ideas only because that executive was not evolved enough to deal with the intangibles of creative business than the higher officials who signed the deal after looking at the credentials and scope of advertising agency’s research & work.
This takes us to the much bigger issue always nagging at client-agency meetings. Neither agency people themselves, nor marketing personnel at client side have ever been able to develop meaningful, mutually acceptable ways to measure, judge and compensate creative ideas. The review of advertising research & its effectiveness needs to be viewed in a paradigm that should not be weighed down by ROI. There has not been any consensus on how to review the effectiveness, and probably it can never be reached, as the ways in which messages, images and voices touch chords with sentiments and emotions, leading to influential brand identity, is immeasurable. Yet some structure to measure the success of a campaign is inevitable and any such system that is transparent, cost-effective and motivational enough to sustain and invigorate the relationship is hard to find or agree upon.
Trust & respect equals to better outcomes
Smart clients and agencies acknowledge that strong relationships create good work leading to business growth. They also understand that to build a strong work relationship, there should be an environment of trust of and respect for each other. The communication, both ways, should be clear, unambiguous, honest and based on practical expectations. All mutually fulfilling relationships are marked by a culture of working together, acceptability of each other’s ideas, respect for the creative freedom and space for the leap of faith the agency is willing to take.
Trust is paramount when working together. The element of distrust and any implicit threat culture, other undercurrents of intimidation, fear of cancellation of the contract stifles the inspiration and kills the motivation desperately needed to come out with an outstanding campaign. The feeling of aversion takes the whole prospect to doom. Agency should always feel that it is working with the client, and not for the client. The motivation which comes with complete transparency, enthusiastic involvement, respect and trust, infuses the whole exercise with lot life and energy which is reflected in the outcomes.