Those damn agencies
By: Guest Author
The relationship between advertising agencies and clients is often spoken about – usually with venom. From both sides. This is particularly relevant for me now, having just left a very exciting client meeting with the often broad-based statement, “I f^$*ing hate all agencies!” ringing in my ears. To tell you the truth I can certainly relate to this sentiment.
No, no; they weren’t talking about us (thank god). Even though it was about another agency, I still get a slightly embarrassed feeling for my industry compatriots, even though it was because they (evidently) performed so poorly that their/our clients fundamentally dislike them as human beings, but feel they have to use them.
In fact, in this particular client meeting (a digital meeting) the client even mentioned that they were more profitable without digital marketing. The first question that came to my mind was how in this day and age is that even possible? The second question being, how poor must the agency have been to not even beat a profit margin or growth point of 0?
It is this negative relationship model that has developed over decades. It’s a hangover from traditional agency days where clients began to despise the playboy, cavalier behaviour of their agencies (think of the cocky agency types in Mad Men, a la Don Draper). As general skills across the industry grew, clients’ in-house skills and knowledge grew alongside them, and as soon as agencies underperformed clients were quick to whip them down – or back into shape – from a position of ‘we pay you so just do it’. Agency men would sit back and whine about how naive and unwilling clients were to listen to them.
And around it goes – a relationship fostered in negativity.
Surely a client and agency relationship should be a seamless partnership based on cooperation and mutual objectives? One that’s more reminiscent of a symbiotic relationship, where both parties grow entwined with each other, both in support, skill sharing, and ultimately hit key performance indicators together. We should be creating an environment where skilled professionals can work in tandem with clients to create digital strategies that are lead by data, and executed as a team.
Digital agencies have the opportunity to work differently, so why are more agencies not willing to disrupt our own models (like Uber did in the transportation industry). Due to the highly skilled nature of digital marketing and the implementation of its strategies, we’ve seen the need for a myriad of 3rd party tools that can be used in conjunction with each other to deliver on clients’ goals. This can be, and has to be done immediately, in real time, or as close to it as possible for optimal results and agility.
It may sound idealistic but our client relationship is one that’s built on support, trading of ideas, testing and insights. Because, ultimately, we as agencies want and need our clients to succeed! And our clients need us to help drive innovation, skills, and strategies so they can focus on growth and sales.
Working collaboratively in a partnership can work! Is this too idealistic? Absolutely not. Simply put, there’s no other option.