Simon Barwick | April 27, 2016

Why you want your agency to love you

The agency is just one more supplier. It’s their job to follow the bill-paying client’s instructions and just get it done. And the bill-paying client is always, always right.

If you’re on the client side and you agree with these sentiments, you might find your agency relationships tend not to be that rewarding. And the chances are, you’re getting (as the industry saying goes) what you deserve.

The truth is, the most successful client-agency relationships happen when both get what they’re after.

What does a ‘successful’ relationship actually mean? A common desire to see objectives more than smashed. Your brand gaining a measurable competitive advantage. Your business and its people highly mobilised. Campaigns that can change the popular culture while also coming in on time, on the money.

As a client, you want career success (higher salary, promotion, influence) that comes from your brand’s success (market share, growth, recognition) and, well, more mundane stuff like on-time, highly-effective advertising for the lowest possible budget.

Meanwhile, success for agencies means being profitable, busy and famous.

Actually, when an agency loves you they’ll devote more brain space to solving your problems (over their other clients’ problems) and advancing your brand’s cause. Always without billing you for that extra effort.

If you’re a great client, I will obsess about solving your problem. In the pub, out fishing, walking the dog, while I’m asleep – I’ll be churning your problem over and over until it’s solved. And the quality of that solution will be far higher and all at no extra cost beyond what’s been agreed in the project estimate.

And if you’re an insanely great client, I’ll be thinking about stuff you haven’t even considered yet. Watching what your competitors are up to, spotting a niche, eyeing an opportunity. I’ll be living and breathing your brand – all without the meter running.

In the agency, your projects go higher up the queue. Your account team will nickel and dime the printer, the media house, the production company on your behalf. The writers and the artists will be extra creative and work up better concepts that ultimately cost less to produce. The desk toppers will stay later into the night, worry about the details and nail that super-tight deadline. All for you.

But if an agency really doesn’t love their unfortunate client, those happy things tend not to happen. Deadlines tend to slip. Concepts lose the glossy wow factor. Worse, their project estimates start acquiring a mysterious and invisible BS Factor which increases the overall project cost.

Being loved by your agency definitely has its advantages. It’s a skill well worth developing.


Next time: How to get your agency to love you

Simon Barwick

Creative Director + Principal