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Client-Agency Relationships: How To Fix Them?

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team member

Helen Cain

At a time of real change within organisations, where budgets are tight, ways of working have had to adapt and business growth is key, organisations are looking to get more from their money.

Reviewing external partners and agencies has risen to the top of ‘to-do’ list with clients wanting to ensure they have an agency who are a true extension of their marketing team, can provide consistent and elevated outputs and share the same drive for efficiency, sustainability and inclusivity.

Having implemented the Flock Agency Appraisal Tool with global clients such as Toyota/Lexus, Citibank, PepsiCo, and Walmart to name a few, we have seen common trends emerging across organisations. The tool allows for client on agency, and agency on client appraisals (as well as agency on agency appraisals for clients looking to drive integration between agencies), so we have great data on “both sides” of the relationship.

From this data we have developed a strong Flock Advertiser-Agency benchmark providing insight into where the client-agency relationship commonly succeeds and falls short.

Let us take a look at some of the highest and lowest scoring areas we have seen across organisations, with a view to understanding what are the common issues, and also best performing topics:

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Operations

Marketing operations is an area where clients and agencies tend to score well and is our highest scoring benchmark compared to People, Output and Measurement & KPIs. It is not always the case though and the provision of inaccurate data is still an area that plagues many agencies.

What trends do we see?


Strong working relationships with external partners

Clear commercial and procurement guidelines

Engaged client-agency teams and strong communication

Lack of openness and provision of relevant and effective innovative solutions

Inconsistent provision of information and sharing between markets e.g. best practises

Provision of inaccurate and delayed information e.g. briefs, budgets

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People

In our surveys we gather all the questions relating to agency and client staffing into one section; People. People are at the heart of every relationship, and the most important part of a successful advertiser & agency relationship. This is an area that both clients and agencies often score well in, but it is currently second highest ranking to operations. It is interesting to see that Covid, whilst putting massive strains on teams, seems to correlate with an increase in people scores. It may well be that the more “human connection” is reflected in the scores. In addition our new Diversity & Inclusivity questions are leading to significant change in not only agency performance, but the nature of their work.

What trends do we see?


One-team mentality with open and transparent communication

Consistent access to senior stakeholders who provide the right level of support and direction

Good agency understanding of client business, products and industry

Lack of resource with the right capabilities and competencies

Poor identification and implementation of solutions for critical issues

Inconsistent provision of industry and business information from client

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Measurement & KPIs

Having conducted 50+ Agency Appraisal projects, Measurement & KPIs is an area that often scores poorly. It is fascinating that whilst many advertisers and agencies talk about the importance of “data driven marketing” and proof of ROI, that this is often the lowest scoring category. The good news is that when we work with advertisers and agencies we often see score increases of +20% in this area; some of the fixes can be fast and lead to large increases in value, particularly in media.

What other trends do we see?


Openness of clients to performance enhancing insights and analysis

Drive for innovation and utilisation of new technology platforms

Agency mentality of optimisation and continuous improvement

Lack of collaboration when determining KPIs

Setting of unclear and unachievable targets

Ambiguity around whether a target is met

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Output

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lowest scoring area is output where increased performance and consistency are at the top of agendas. Many advertisers and agencies fail to define “what good looks like” or have a common agreement on the standards of work required. This is often the root cause of either a poor work product, or the scoring of it. In our action planning, following appraisals, we often run sessions to help align on the standard of work required, or we do more formal analysis of the work.

What trends do we see?


Good alignment of assets with creative concept and brief

Strong consideration and application of client feedback

Encouraging creative environment

Inconsistent identification of key insights to inspire creative strategy

Lack of content adaptability to varied channels

Poor adherence to overall strategy and provision of stand-alone content

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If you do not know how your agency is performing, have “old school” measures, no benchmarks, or your agency appraisals are currently a time-consuming chore leading to little change in the relationship or quality of work, then please complete the form below to see how our tools & data may solve some of your problems.

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