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Is the Relationship Between Agencies and Clients in Crisis?

A recent anonymous survey carried out by RPA and USA Today has revealed an apparent crisis in the relationship between 140 U.S. advertising agencies and brand agency leaders. The survey entitled The Naked Truth was intended to stimulate a positive dialogue between the two parties and was first presented at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
The results paint a rather grim picture of a world in turmoil where trusting relationships are rare and each side views the other with suspicion. Clients and agents agree that trust is vital to establishing a successful working relationship, but it seems to be in woefully short supply

Why is There Such a Lack of Trust?
The survey reveals that the reason trust is lacking is because:

  • Many clients feel that agencies are dated, fail to understand their clients’ businesses, and are slow to respond to changes in the marketplace. Agents, on the other hand, believe that clients are their own worst enemy, do no respect the skill and expertise of creative branding agencies.
  • Need to have a shared definition of ‘creativity’ actually means in practice. Agencies were, perhaps unsurprisingly, more optimistic about the amount the best creative could impact upon a business- clients estimated the impact to be 26 percent compared to the agencies estimation of 48 percent.

The survey also provided reasons and solutions:

  • The highest performing agencies revealed that they had a good understanding of how to drive sales on behalf of their clients and were prepared to speak openly and honestly to their clients.
  • Agencies who admitted to producing average work were more likely to admit that they were more interested in their own portfolios than the clients’ work and selling to clients.
  • Communication is the key to improving trust. Agencies require more transparency and less double-speak and clients require agencies to use they lauded communication skills to win them over.

Risk-taking Agencies Versus Conservative Clients?
Agencies overwhelmingly feel that their clients are too averse to taking risks, with 76 percent of agencies agreeing with the statement. Risk-taking agencies were also more likely to claim that they won more industry awards than their competitors and increase agency revenue at a higher and faster rate. Clients say that they are open to new ideas and are prepared to take risks, but that these risks need to be based on a clear strategic planning and not a leap into the unknown for the sake of it.

Troubled Times for Branding Agencies and Clients ?
The survey revealed a telling dichotomy between agencies and clients feeling towards an understanding of their business. 90 percent of agencies claimed to have a thorough understanding of their clients’ ROI, but clients questioned in the survey felt that 40 percent was a more accurate figure.
If all this wasn’t troubling enough, a 2015 report from Hall & Partners, commissioned by IPA entitled From Mad Men to Sad Men concludes that the relationship between client and agency is certainly experiencing troubled times and that the two worlds appear to be moving ever further apart. The survey concludes by suggesting four key points to improve the client/agency relationship. As Tim Leake, the SVP at RPA concludes ‘the better the relationship, the better the work.’

How Can the Relationship Between Clients and Agencies Improve?
Echoing the need for improved communication, Nikki Crumpton, a strategist at branding agency ‘Mother’ offers a creative planning perspective on the issue, arguing that understanding likeability is vital when marketing a brand. Understanding what makes something likeable is not as straightforward as it might appear. Crumpton describes how cultural memes differ during times of prosperity and times of hardship and it is vital to understand how we are attracted to things that are shaped by what is happening around us. Crumpton advocates playing the long game, remaining true to yourself and genuine to your beliefs to avoid seeming ‘disconcertingly unpredictable’, and consequently untrustworthy and unlikeable.
Crumpton talks about the impact of well-loved advertising campaigns that instinctively manage to tap into the collective public consciousness. Successful marketing is all about ‘the feels’; emotional layering is the most effective way of building a connection with consumers.

An Example of a Branding Agency Successfully Working Towards a Common Goal.
Frances Ralston-Good, the chief strategy and innovation officer at Omnicom Media Group UK, says that her job is to ensure that the brands message is liked by as many people as possible. In this context, it is better to be liked by the masses than loved by a few. To do this successfully, in the world of television, it is becoming increasingly necessary to enhance likeability by various physical
context enhancements, such as enticing the viewer to use the touchscreen. There are many options to increase the charm of your product. One recently tried-and-tested method is to remake it in Lego! Ralston-Good’s involvement in ITVs recent campaign at the time of ‘The Lego Movie’, resulted in the likeability of five brands increase by 19 percent.

What do Industry Leaders Think?
Marketer Jeremy Gidley, the director of CRM at CUI Group, believes that shared goals, insight, and focus are the tools of a successful relationship. Nicola Coronado from SCA Hygiene Products states that the client needs to have a good understanding of their own business and the tools to effectively communicate their aims and desires to the creative branding agency. Barnaby Dawes, the global CMO of JustEat, recommends keeping the briefing process concise and ensuring that the agency is kept in the loop by treating them as full members of the team.

The Cream Will Always Rise to the Top?
Successful and dynamic agencies have already anticipated and responded to the situation, which is inevitably driven in part by market forces. Agencies specialising in specific areas, like branding, who are passionate about what they do, will continue to thrive. Comprehending the client’s world, having the expertise to analyse and communicate ideas is the way forward.

Conclusion
The real difference in today’s world when it comes to choosing a branding agency is purely down to relationships. In the modern world, tool sets are readily available, people with lots of creativity abound – it’s a cut-throat market. As a successful creative branding agency in Manchester, ProjectSimply stands out from the crowd by being likable and developing strong relationships, through our thorough and thoughtful approach and by being inclusive – we believe in being very collaborative with our clients. Feedback from our clients reveals the truth of the two surveys – we are relaxed and friendly in our approach. To find out more about our work or how we work please see our branding process or drop us a line and lets talk.

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