Gita Ghaemmaghami on managing the client-agency relationship.

 

When I started out in advertising, the agency I was at would handle all the advertising and media needs of clients. We were the one-stop shop. It was easier for the client to manage one agency and, thus, they invested a lot of energy into a great relationship, which made us a true business partner. Over the past 17 years, however, the marcomms landscape has shifted dramatically, resulting in multiple agencies delivering on a client’s business. This shift has triggered challenges at both ends of the spectrum, with both agencies and clients needing to manage numerous relationships per campaign. In a highly energetic and competitive industry such as advertising, strong relationships should be initiated on solid foundations.

RPA (Rubin Postaer and Associates) conducted an online survey a few years back of more than 140 advertising agency and brand marketing leaders to better understand the agency-client relationship. Revealed at PRA’s forum “The Naked Truth” at the 2014 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, results showed that 98 per cent of both clients and agencies believe that trust is paramount and that a trust-based union leads to better collaborations.

Therefore, the lack of trust is the first sign of a troubled client-agency relationship, which usually arises when the following basics are not established:
• Negotiation sets the foundation of any relationship. Negotiations should be set on rational, impartial and fair bases as it is important for both parties to be content with the outcome.
• Both parties are guilty of not being transparent. In an information-loaded world, imaginary power games damage client-agency relationships.
• Even if your business card reads kahuna of marketing or advertising, decisions made at senior level should be communicated with the teams of both parties promptly.
• Lack of proper communication may pave the way towards an unstable relationship. Focusing on interpersonal communication is key to ensuring a healthy relationship.

Building trust between the client and the agency is a long process, especially when dealing with challenging clients. A list of dos and don’ts can help maintain good and smooth connections between agencies and clients:
• Good communication solves everything, and this includes a mix of verbal and nonverbal.
• You will enjoy your job more if you genuinely care about the success of the business as much as the client does. Reaching this point in a clientagency relationship is invaluable.
• Don’t be happy only with the work you deliver; keep track of the deliverables and ensure both the client and you meet the same expectations.
• Do not get caught up in operational efficiency, emailing every single phone conversation.
• Do not go above your point of contact to their superior. There are always ways to address issues in a direct manner, no matter how serious your query is.
• Use the first-mover advantage and always call the client to let them know if something goes wrong. It might not be easy, but your client will appreciate it.
The best results come into realisation when true partnerships are formed between the client and the agency. Therefore, it is always vital to invest in client-agency partnerships, as both parties are after the same result; they’re just coming at it from different perspectives.

Gita Ghaemmaghami, Regional marketing communications manager & head of PR, Sony Mobile.

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