Agencies,' Clients' Creative Excellence Blame Game, 2018 Edition

This week saw the release of the 2018 Agency Productivity Report published by Canadian software company Function Point in partnership with the AgencyManagement Institute (AMI). AMI supports small and mid-size agencies, but before you dismiss them, please note: Their pain is your pain.

The Agency Productivity Report (get your copy here) has polled a cross-section of agency leaders on what derails the agency-client relationship when developing creative work.

As Drew McLellan, AMI’s CEO, puts it: “There’s an interesting juxtaposition between our hunger to create memorable work and our need to hit our own business objectives.” In other words, agencies typically aim to please, and that’s costing them money.

It’s interesting that many of the reasons why creative development takes longer or requires more resources than originally planned, or pushes into last-minute territory, or turns out to be “mediocre,” happen because of the process that drives the development of the work. And the blame for its malfunction can’t be placed squarely on the agencies. In fact, in my experience, quite a lot of the blame should be owned by advertisers.



If you’re an advertiser, you might think, “So what? My agency got the work done, right? Who cares that there was carnage on the agency side?”

Well, here’s why you should care as an advertiser. I have a money argument, a reputation argument and a quality-of-work argument. Depending on what kind of marketer, company or person you are, take your pick. (Spoiler alert: you should care about all three).

Let’s talk reputation first. Many advertisers are notorious for being labeled a “bad client.” As an agency person, you will realize this when you hang with your friends from other agencies, and the mere mention of client X will lead to an eye-roll and a free round of drinks bought by your buddies to console you in your misfortune.

If you are that client, this is not good. Agencies will struggle to get their best talent on your business. They will, perhaps subconsciously, not put their best foot forward on your briefings.

Now let’s talk quality of work. From my previous argument, if you are a client that typifies bad behavior, your agency’s work will suffer.

But even if you are generous with time and resources, there are many things you can do as an advertiser to ensure better creative quality.

For example: Write better briefs. If you find that hard, invest in training, or write them with your agency.

Allow enough time for the development of creative, and allow a little time for redoing it, because the reality is that re-work happens.

Ensure the agency knows who approves the work and by what criteria. It always surprises me that work is developed to a level of “almost finished” — and then a key stakeholder gets involved, and we’re back to the drawing board on a Friday afternoon, with the deadline on Monday.

Finally, there’s the money argument. I think it's obvious that by addressing some of the bad or unintended behaviors as outlined above, you will save money because you will work more effectively.

None of this is easy, but it is worth it. As with any relationship, if you invest in it, improvements will follow. Just ask your significant other!

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