After being in the ad game for years, I realize that the best client-agency relationships are those where the client looks to their advertising agency to be more than just an expert in marketing, but also an overall business expert.
Ideally, the agency has a depth of understanding and passion for the client’s specific industry, as well. But it’s really a broader sense of the business’ operation that drives recommendations, ideas and programs that resonate internally with a client’s entire staff, and not just their marketing personnel. This gets the commitment and engagement that brings an advertising message to life with real customer service interactions and sales born from the truth of the company and its authentic culture. Clients benefit from having a partnership-type relationship with the agency that’s more holistic, enriching their perspectives with an expanded pool of trusted advisors.
We see this over and over again and know that this kind of relationship is the kind that lasts a long time, to the mutual benefit of both parties.
Clients foster this partnership with their agency by being totally transparent and brutally honest about the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, its growth plans and competitive challenges, and its proprietary processes, technologies and secrets of success.
This collaboration is often rewarded with an “Aha! Moment”, as this knowledge and insight is shared and discussed – a moment when the soul of the brand is revealed, or the unique essence of the corporate culture is crystalized, in a way that creative teams can internalize and bring forth in sharper advertising and branding work for the client.
Occasionally, we engage with a client who holds back on revealing itself to the agency in this ideal manner. There is a fear of discovery, perhaps, that the company isn’t all it has claimed to be at the outset. We do the best we can with what is provided, but know the relationship will not bear its full fruit. Or likely last as long.
It often is indicative that the marketing function within the client’s organization is not respected or valued as much as other departmental disciplines. However, this seems to be a diminishing situation in the past five years, as technology is increasingly forcing dramatic changes in distribution channels and shopping/purchasing habits for both consumer and business-to-business products and services. Marketing of all kinds, especially real-time marketing at the moment of truth, is being credited with driving top line growth and garnering more and more support at the C-suite and Board level.
As technology makes an ever-expanding array of data available to inform marketing, the problem marketing and agency teams will face in the future will not likely be lack of transparency, but the opposite – too much information to be useful.
Still, those special “Aha! Moments” born from deep mutual trust and partnership built on business fundamentals — and not just marketing ones — will always be part of the formula to inspire rich creativity and great marketing results.