Tips on how to work with your agency

Posted by Opinion desk on 4 Jul, 2012 / Features

by Jerome Styer, Y&R Johannesburg general manager and client service director

It’s been said that “great work wins clients, great relationships keep them”. With the average agency relationship lasting only three years these days, it appears that long lasting partnerships are becoming a thing of the past. Whilst some of these shortened tenures are due to business requirements, a lot are clearly due to a breakdown in client-agency relationships. 

As with any healthy relationship, both partners consistently demonstrate a commitment. If you reflect on your own personal relationships, and those around you, the successful ones are usually as a result of a common vision, open and honest communication, mutual respect and understanding. 

So, if you’re a client and you’ve just ‘married a new agency’ or are contemplating ‘divorce’ because it just isn’t working, then stop for a second, read on and see if you can apply some of these principles on how to get the best out of your relationship with your agency. 

Understand that we’re in this together

Trust, share and listen. The client-agency relationship flourishes when it’s treated as a partnership, as everyone works towards the same goals for your brand. Open up to your agency and share relevant and important information about your business and your brands, not just the brief. While the agency focuses on the customer communication, it’s important that they understand how you operate and why your competitors are giving you a headache. Share your sales objectives and company culture as it gives the agency team a better idea of what’s required and allows them to develop work that works. 

Clear directions

Good work starts with a good brief. At the accelerated pace of work output today, clients sometimes forgo the brief as the agency is expected to ‘know my business’. But this is a mistake, as the brief helps identify the opportunity or problem and structure the thinking or approach to solve this. It forces you to take a step back and consider the communication challenge, engage your own internal stakeholders and get them onboard. When briefs are clear, both the client and agency start from the same position and should ultimately end up in a similar destination. 

Time

Albert Einstein said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Agency turnaround times are in place to ensure that you get the best quality work. Squeezing the agency to halve the time might get you the work quicker, but chances are with a few extra days applied, it could be even better. Ask yourself if it’s worth compromising the quality to get it a few days sooner. 

Let creatives be creative

When the creative team unveils the latest campaign for your review and approval, be weary not to art direct their work. The true measure should be against the brief. You are the expert on your brand and should assess the work against the objectives, the audience and the desired outcome, rather than trying to tweak the headline or the layout. 

Sometimes it’s good to take risks

One of the main reasons agency’s get hired, is because of the energy and the creative work that gets presented at the pitch. Yet this work never see’s the light of day, something I’ve yet to understand. Are we so scared of failure that we’ll sacrifice a good idea? Every now and then it’s good to stick your neck out and do something different. It might just get your brand noticed – just ask Cadbury’s. 

Finally, be nice…

If you like the work, let the team know. When clients are honest and genuine in their acknowledgement, the agency teams will work that much harder for you.

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