Why does the same agency deliver prize-worthy work to one client and “ok” work to another? It’s the same agency, so the quality of the delivered work must be the same, right? Wrong.
The relationship between creative agencies and clients may seem complex, but it really isn’t. Like any relationship, both parties need to be engaged and invested. Sure, there are challenges involved, but the core of it is pretty straightforward.
Clients are responsible for some of the things that hinder an agency from doing its best. Here are the most common 7 of them.
1. OVERLAPPING CLIENT AND AGENCY ROLES
Clients brief. Agencies create. That’s it in a nutshell. What that means is that it’s the client’s responsibility to know their product well, to accurately profile their audiences and to get clear on the objectives of the brief. On the other hand, it’s the agency’s duty to achieve those objectives with creative, a good message structure and a comprehensive communication plan. Neither party should do the other’s work. Overlap those responsibilities, and your agency will automatically feel disengaged.
2. GIVING THE AGENCY HALF A CREATIVE
It is not uncommon for clients to come up with their own creative and, even though agencies might not prefer to work this way, they will still execute a client’s creative cordially. What is not a good-case-scenario is when a client comes up with an initial idea then asks one or multiple agencies to see the idea through into a solid creative concept. Creative is an agency’s livelihood and fuel. It is why they do what they do. When a client asks them to build on their idea, they are disengaged and the executions often seem forced. Even worse, when the client gets more than one agency involved without aligning them. The resulting executions will be incoherent and inharmonious at best. If an agency does not have full ownership over the creative, they will deliver “ok” results.
3. WORKING WITH MULTIPLE AGENCIES INDEPENDENTLY
Another common practice that - despite common belief – agencies don’t mind at all, is when a client works with several agencies simultaneously. The only case in which this scenario is ineffective is when the client does not align those agencies on their existence and works-in-progress. When each agency knows what the other is doing, they know what to and not to do. They take ownership over their individual parts and deliver their usual outstanding results. It may also come as a surprise to many clients that agencies can work together. Aligning agencies and letting them actually collaborate together is in the client’s best interest.
4. DOUBTING AND QUESTIONING
Trust the agency to do its job. One of the most disengaging things a client can do is to question their agency’s capabilities and integrity. It’s simple human psychology; when you trust someone to do something, they are motivated to do it exceedingly well. The flip side of that scenario is distrust, which immediately fosters detachment, self-doubt and demotivation. Empowering an agency with trust is key to ensuring they deliver high-quality, impressive results.
5. SOMETIMES COLLABORATING, SOMETIMES NOT
It may seem cliché, but teamwork is indeed the most effective approach to getting things done in the best possible way. Blaming, pushing or intimidating your agency is a sure way to lose its buy-in. This is especially obvious when things don’t go according to plan. If the agency feels the client is a team player, they will go above and beyond to find solutions to arising challenges. The client can always set the record straight after the event or crisis has been managed, but during, best results will always come by within a spirit of collaboration.
6. POSITIONING THE AGENCY AS A “LESSER” ENTITY
Clients and agencies are partners. They are peers working together, each doing what they do best to achieve one goal. Positioning and treating an agency as an inferior or a secondary will discourage and dishearten the team. Giving them their standing as a creative partner to the company and important team player is central to getting the best out of them.
7. PRESENTING THEIR WORK FOR THEM
Clients need to trust that their agencies are best equipped to present and negotiate their work, whether it’s to other stakeholders on the project, to the company CEO or to another agency the client is collaborating with on the same project. They are the most knowledgeable party with their own work, and thus the workarounds that may be needed to perfect it. Playing téléphone cassé is a sure way to hinder progress.
The bottom line to this list is that the relationship between clients and agencies is what makes or breaks the quality of the work delivered by the agency at the end of the day. Like any healthy, fruitful business relationship, it requires an empowering framework and agile dynamics to thrive. This is how prize-worthy work is created.