Have You Hugged Your Agency Today?

Have you hugged your agency partners today?

OK, I'll admit that sounds a little extreme, but the question is intended to be exaggerated to highlight the state of agency/client relationships these days. 

In the old days, this relationship was long-lasting, quite deep and very effective.  These days the average agency/client relationship is four years.  Is that because the agencies are full of overworked, under-experienced, over-compensated braggarts?  In most cases, no.

For the most part, regardless of the issues facing agencies, they're full of hard-working, well-intentioned, innovative minds.  To be an agency careerist is hard; you face challenges from many sides.  Your competition is always coming after your business and the ethics of business aren't always top of mind.  Agencies undercut on price and they come after your best people.  Being in an agency and pouring your heart and soul into the work of your clients can be a pretty thankless job, but those of us who've chosen this path know why we love it!



Being an agency person allows you to explore creativity and data at the same time.  It allows you to learn on an ongoing basis, and be innovative and a problem solver.  The nature of the agency world is one of facing challenges head-on almost daily, and creating solutions.  Knowing that we can overcome challenges and succeed is what drives us.  That's the kind of thinking that gets agency people excited!

Of course, many of us will tell you that the agency business would be utterly amazing if it wasn't for the clients.  I jest (a little), but the fact is that most clients don't value their agencies and don't take into account the human component of the work that's delivered day in and day out, under intense conditions, in amazingly quick cycles. 

Rarely if ever does the agency develop the ideas they bring to you in the car ride over to your offices.  Most of those ideas were developed over painstaking hours and days, through any combination of late nights, frenetic brainstorms and emotional bloodletting.  And nothing hurts worse than when a client shoots down your strategic vision in a matter of minutes for reasons like "We don't like the color" or "But that's what I read our competition is doing in Adweek."

By no means am I arguing that your agency partners get it right all of the time.  Intelligent discourse is what truly creates great work, in both creative and media.  What you should be striving for is that intelligent discourse, not just discourse for the sake of the meeting. 

You select an agency because you believe they have the talent and the experience to bring value to your business.  That is what they do (for the most part, when compensated in the right way).  Being a good partner means that you challenge one another and  try to make each other better. And you check your ego at the door.  You value your partner's strengths and you work through your partner's weaknesses, knowing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  It's the same in any relationship and it should be the same in business.

My hope is that if agencies and clients can develop the right kind of relationship early on through the compensation structure, then they can create a truly mutually beneficial relationship that lasts for many years.  Both sides should be willing to invest time and they should never nickel-and-dime their partners.   Both sides should get to know the other from a personal view.  Each should value the experience the other brings to the table, understanding that decisions are made based on all the information, not just your gut or some innate desire to have power in the relationship.  They should have an implied understanding that if they go the extra mile for one another, that they'll have each other's back  and the kind of relationship that can go on for years and years.

So if you have a meeting today, take a second to appreciate your agency.  You don't have to engage in a group hug, but simply ask them why they did what they did -- and say thank you for the hard work.

What have you seen that's worked and was successful at creating a long-lasting relationship between agency and client?  Share your ideas on the Spin Board -- I know at least 1,000 people that really want to hear them!!

5 comments about "Have You Hugged Your Agency Today?".
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  1. Sandy Miller from Success Communications, July 21, 2010 at 2:38 p.m.

    I work for an agency and I agree with many points here. I have some great clients and the ones that I have the best relationships with are those that there is a mutual respect.

    As a agency rep I have to appreciate the stress my client might be getting from his internal team or bosses. I try to give them what they need and if I know there will be resistance I provide the points they will need when they have to sell it internally.

    So clients that give me the most information make it easier for me to provide them all the details and the results to make a successful campaign.

  2. L john Yarusi from Olive LLC, July 21, 2010 at 2:40 p.m.

    Man I just read your piece and it couldn't be more timely... First let me say YES YES YES - I agree with your stance... But I think you missed one big area... Clients using agencies and more precisely "digital" agencies like one-night stands... You meet with a client - you get a sense that they finally realize they need to address the ever expanding digital social universe... They invite you in - pick you and your agency's brain... Ask you not to do anything to extravagant but could you put your thoughts and process on paper... Of course we oblige - cause we want win the business and honestly believe we can make a real difference in "said' brand's" bottom-line... And wham bang thank you ma'am - they bite, take your ideas, strategy and budget... And then run around trying to figure out how to "get her done"... There was a really great video on YouTube a few years back - called "if the client / agency relationship existed in real life"

    Pretty much in tune with what you spoke about above...

    Sans of course our Clients giving us big HUGS... And the occasional - "thanks" for all your blood sweat and hard work...

    Well - I got run... I have a 3 o'clock brain vacuuming via a potential new client... Isn't this economy grand - brings out the best in clients - LOL


  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 21, 2010 at 3:30 p.m.

    What do you think about the clients trying to charge agencies in Europe to be able to make presentations? Yikers !

  4. Fraser E from Opinions expressed herein are solely my own, July 21, 2010 at 8:51 p.m.

    Cory, great post. You asked "What have you seen that's worked and was successful at creating a long-lasting relationship between agency and client?". I believe it's this simple: Be smart, be nice, be consistent, and understand the degree to which the inability to approve quality, on-strategy work may be coming from inside your own institution, and not theirs.

    Be thrifty. Be fast. Be the smartest one in the room. Be demanding of quality and accountability. Be all those things that challenge people to push the envelope for you...just don't be a jerk about it!

    Getting good, hard, loyal work from your agency partners really isn't much more complicated than that.

  5. Katia Shirikian from POPAI Arabia, July 22, 2010 at 3:15 a.m.

    I totally agree with you John & Paula - the funny part of charging for the presentation - !
    Mutual respect no longer excists in most cases , it takes years to overcome show ,walk & ..nothing scenarios. Hopefully things will change , but I find it hard nowadays when the media channels are wide & everyone wants a piece of the action .

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