Brands – maybe it’s time to stop pitching and reboot your agency relationship instead?

The Drum 19 Nov 2020 12:00

The value of managing the relationship between advertiser and agency has been proven, so why do so many brands fail to heed the lessons? Christine Downton, associate partner at The Observatory International, outlines why some marketers need to learn to stop pitching.

There is so much going on right now: Covid-19, Brexit (particularly for UK based marketers but also many in Europe), the challenge to the economy (everywhere) and the on-going adaptation to new ways of working. And yet so many companies are still thinking about looking for a new agency.

This is despite the latest research from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in the US, which identified that the key to long-term client agency relationships built on trust is a strong relationship management programme with at least an annual 360-degress evaluation.

Since we all know that long-term relationships are the best route to the most effective marketing activity, it should be a no brainer.

One of our major blue-chip clients used to come to us on a regular basis wanting us to run a pitch for one agency discipline or another on their roster – “they just don’t get us”, “they’re not producing the type of work we want”, “ we don’t like the team” – any number of reasons to justify finding another agency.

Running a pitch now means taking the time to finding the right partner and then embedding them into your business – it can take up to six months for a new agency to get up to speed.

Relationship management works best when three key components are present.

To ensure that both you and your agencies are getting the most out of the relationship you need to evaluate performance and gain feedback using impartial, simple to complete, easy to set-up surveys conducted at least on an annual, ideally biannual basis. And that means having the correct tools, guidance, reporting and remedial actions deployed consistently, over time.

Relationships work best when they are mutually beneficial. That means performance-based compensation models with a focus on outcomes. Excellence in agency compensation combines the right balance of risk and reward, clear measurable targets and the right balance of tangible and behavioural measures.

Make sure your teams are optimising the relationship with your agency partners. Without this you’ll be throwing time and money away, with issues repeating and friction in the whole process. You’ll want to define and embed best practice communications development and agency management throughout your teams. Understand what capabilities and resources are needed and when to deploy them.

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ANAChristine DowntonObservatory InternationalBrexitHugh Grant
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