Picture: 123RF/AMMENTORP
Picture: 123RF/AMMENTORP

The past 18 months have brought about a once-in-a-lifetime experience for marketers and agencies. The partners in the relationship have had to rely on each other more than ever before, points out Johanna McDowell, CEO of the Independent Agency Search & Selection Company (IAS) and Scopen partner – and it’s been a good test.

“Agencies have been expected to go above and beyond during this time,” she says, adding that those who have done so have succeeded in retaining their clients. 

The only potential downside, she says, is that they might have compromised more than normal on costs.

“The uncertainty has continued long beyond what we thought it would be 18 months ago, and though some marketers are now starting to look beyond the pandemic and at what they will need for the future, client-agency partnerships that were forged through the worst of the pandemic have become even more important,” she says.

There is no question that there is a benefit to long-term partnerships between marketers and their creative and media agencies. Successfully managing them requires the understanding of each other’s roles and requirements. Rough patches are inevitable, McDowell says. “Getting past rough patches requires careful management. The key to partnership success is how these rough patches are navigated, smoothed over and adapted to by both parties with key goals firmly in place.”

Agency-client relationships that are enduring – and succeeding – are the result of innovation, proactivity and a real sense of shared responsibility for tangible business results, says McDowell.

Scopen research reveals that the length of a marketer’s relationship with its creative agency is an average of 4.5 years, and typically ends as a result of poor account service, internal agency processes, lack of creativity or a failure to meet deadlines. The research reveals that a marketer’s relationship with its media agency typically lasts 4.7 years and tends to end due to bad account service, poor value for money or an unreasonable fee, and internal changes or new ways of working.

However, as McDowell explains, there is a cost to ending the relationship. “Besides the parting of ways, there is the challenge of finding a new agency and developing a relationship, which can take months before it functions optimally and produces the required outputs.”

That is why she recommends establishing a management structure from the outset that includes the flexibility required to accommodate market changes over time.

The Independent Agency Search & Selection Company (IAS) and Scopen will be sponsoring the 2021 FM AdFocus Partnership of the Year Award.

The big take-out:

Rough patches in the agency-client relationship are inevitable. The key is how these rough patches are navigated.

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