Tip 1 - Advice for Agencies Looking For An Edge - A Client's Perspective


"Clients get the advertising that they deserve" - Dan Gross, Principal & Executive Creative Director of DNA, Seattle

I think I've heard Dan say that at least a half-dozen times in the 15-20 years that he and I have been doing business together. And I think he's right. In many ways, the quality of the work produced by an agency is in direct relationship to the quality of the client the work is being done for. Some clients never seem to understand that. Of course, some agencies never seem to get it either.

Earlier this year my friend Larry Coffman, publisher of Marketing NW, suggested that I tap into my 30 years of working with local, regional and national brands (while never working in an agency) to provide some insights from the client side of the relationship.

I stopped creating the my list of suggested insights when I got to 25. It turns out, or so it seems, that I think there’s a lot of advice to share with agencies. Here's the first of several tips that I plan to highlight over the coming days.

1. Loyalty matters. What I’m about to say may not be what you expected. But like the company I work for, PEMCO Insurance, I know I’m a little different in this. I’ve never been a client who milks every good idea from an agency partner and then walks them to the door prior to the next agency review.

In my opinion, clients who behave that way are always in the process of bringing new partners up to speed and spend way too much time shuffling from one creative concept and campaign to another. They miss the advantage and opportunity that comes from leveraging the experience and knowledge gained from longer-term relationships with qualified partners who understand the brand and its business.

Agency principals need to realize that clients who value continuity, consistency and long-term partnerships not only exist, but bring significantly more value to the table than appears on the bottom of an invoice or statement.

Long-term effective agency-client relationships are great references in and of themselves. Tout them in new-business pitches and promote them in your credentials. It’s good for you and its good for us.

And remember, loyalty is a two-way street. How many times has your agency resigned an established account simply so the agency can begin doing business with an account in the same category— an account that has a bigger budget and billing capacity?

Author’s note: I’m extremely proud of the agency partnerships that have supported the brands I have worked for throughout my career. Most of the relationships have stood the test of time for more than a decade. In fact, some worked with me prior to the time I joined PEMCO Insurance in 1999. One, a media-buying relationship with Evergreen Media, originated while I was the advertising manager of Al’s Auto Supply in the early 1980s and has sustained with only minor interruptions for nearly 30 years. 

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.

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  • Rod
    Jan. 3, 2012
    Thanks for joining the conversation David. You are always welcome. Your point about agencies continuing to educate their clients is an excellent one. In fact, ideation and collaboration are two of the top ten on my twenty-five point list of tips for agencies. You'll see those show up in the coming weeks. I hope to get my hands on a copy of "Agency Mania" to take a look at too. Thanks for the tip.

  • David Dallaire, Fennec Consulting
    Jan. 3, 2012
    Always a good topic, Rod. There is a long list to follow after your first bullet I'm sure. Having built and run an agency in Tokyo before coming to Seattle, one I would add to the list would be "Never stop educating your client". While this means something different for every client (in terms of HOW you do this), an agency should always be bringing new ideas - not just about the client's current business and industry, but some "blue ocean" strategies as well as even more mundane things like the process you use to work together (i.e. does your briefing process deliver? How do you measure agency performance?, etc.). Much of the work an agency does today is or is close to being commoditized. Ideas are where the innovation and subsequent value come from. An excellent book on this whole space called "Agency Mania" was published 2 yrs ago by a former colleague, Bruno Gralpois. It makes a good manual for navigating this space! Cheers, D

The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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