Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The truth about clients and their agencies (Pam)

I’m going to take a break today from discussing our campaign for this public service announcement. I’ve got something on my mind.

I’ve had an awful lot of conversations lately about the nature of client and agency relationships. Lots gets whispered amongst just us girls, but noone's saying much out loud. So here goes.

The fact is, as I interpret the trends, agencies are on the precipice of becoming completely irrelevant to Canadian business, if they aren’t already.

The reason for this – lack of perceived value. When agency/client relationships are broken, which most are, clients feel like they're being taken for a ride and, as often as not, it's their own fault. Let me qualify this by stating unequivocally that there are exceptions. But, they are few.

Here’s what I see and it’s a vicious circle. Like two cats in a bag.

At least that's how I've seen things play out in my many years in this biz, working on both sides.

Solutions? Yeah, there are lots.

Clients must recognize that agencies require a reasonable margin. They are businesses with shareholders. Agencies must earn that margin by actually providing value. Stop promoting kids before they're ready. How about investing in training and mentoring? Agency staff, particularly junior staff, must accept that earning your chops takes time and it's a mistake to try to rise before it's time. Clients must truly partner with their agencies. They are key to strategic planning. How can agencies have any kind of impact on the growth and direction of a business if they're only briefed project by project? Agencies need the big picture but have to demonstrate that they are good enough to be at the strategy table.

Oh, and then there's having fun. This business is a grinding one. On some days, there's very little to recommend it. So finding moments of pleasure, together, is important. It's pretty easy to do and doesn't have to cost anyone anything.

Okay, that's what I think. Let's discuss.

(NOTE: This discussion bears no reference to WWF's relationship with FCB. In fact, we don't have these problems because we work hard not to. Well, except to say that WWF doesn't pay FCB enough -- but, come on, we're a charity. We do offer lots of other benefits to the partnership aside from money.)


Anonymous Terry McSorley said...

This is an interesting posting for several reasons. 1. I'm going to be starting my career in Account Services with an agency very soon. 2. I'm actually interviewing with FCB. 3. I agree that agencies lack value IF they aren't able to add value to their client's organization.

As a young, energetic, aspiring account executive, I feel that client/agency relationships need to be much more transparent and synergistic. The number one thing I believe agencies can do to build strong client relationships is build from the bottom up. Training people at an entry level and having them fully understand the ins and outs of the business is something invaluable, and this would be reflected in the relationships these people are able to create and maintain with clients.

FCB is one agency that is able to do this. I have two friends who work for FCB and their experience has been great. They both began in internship positions which gave them a great sense of the business and its clients. This experience also enables new budding account exec’s to develop relationships with more senior level colleagues to learn and mentor from. FCB also has great training programs that allow people to continually expand their knowledge of the industry. This is why FCB has been able to maintain and grow its client base.

So in order for agencies to continue to be successful in the future, there has to be young people being mentored by the seasoned professionals that already exist. I’ve always felt the best way to learn is from experience, and from those with lots of experience. I believe this may be one way to break the vicious cycle.

11:17 PM  

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