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So a week or so ago, I wrote about how many brands heap praise on their agency when they’ve just fucked them over and chosen a new partner.
Well that got me thinking and I’ve come to the realization that in the main, there are only 2 points in a client/agency relationship where you’re kind and considerate to eachother:
Yep, those first few weeks where the relationship is starting to blossom and then those last few days, where you’re all trying to pretend you still care about eachother, even though you both know one of you has just fucked the other over and you’re not happy about it.
And what happens in the time in-between?
Utter, utter carnage.
Lack of respect.
Unrealistic timelines, budget constraints and expectations.
Basically a war … where both sides end up thinking the other is a fuckwit.
Of course not every client/agency relationship is like this, infact the majority aren’t, however I do find it interesting that unless there’s some major campaign being launched, you rarely hear a client openly praise their agency.
Or vice versa.
Well there’s a lot of reasons, one of them simply being that the press don’t give a shit about covering client/agency relationships unless they are at the beginning or the end of the process – however one other possible reason is that public praise has financial implications.
What do I mean?
Well my hypothesis – and that’s all it is – is that with so many companies basically being controlled by the finance department, the level of remuneration paid to external partners is very carefully monitored and so one of the biggest no-no’s is to end up increasing your cost/investment over time.
And what is one of the best ways to insure against this?
By never letting your agency think they are doing a good job so when it comes to renegotiating your contract, you can push them to lower their costs rather than pay more.
Yes … yes … it’s a pure, unadulterated conspiracy theory … however if you subscribe to the point of view that if you follow the money, you often end up finding the truth, you might not dismiss this view immediately.
So how do you counter this?
Well, there’s many ways but one of them is to accept how a business truly operates – and that is not on relationship, but profit.
Alright, that’s not strictly true, because as I said a while ago schmoozing isn’t sleazing, it’s creating – however the reality is if you’re in the finance department and your role is looking after the companies balance sheet, it will be very rare if you care – or consider – how well your Marketing Director gets on with the agency.
So what that means is that you only have one real option available to you … an option that makes ‘renegotiating’ much harder and makes the relationship between agency and client much more balanced.
Yep, gaining undeniable evidence that your work has had a strong and clear financial benefit to the company.
Real financial benefit – not smoke and mirrors like awareness or media value or, to a certain extent, an ‘advertising effectiveness award’ – but something that directly and loudly impacts the bottom line.
Of course to achieve that requires a few things.
1. A client who can clearly articulate what is needed.
2. An agency who can identify & tackle real problem, not just ad problems.
3. A client who is open minded, not executionally specific.
4. An agency who can think beyond the ad.
Sure, that is sometimes a big ask, however when it does happen – as I’ve been fortunate to experience on more than a few occasions – you can make something amazing happen, something that is meaningful, powerful and sustainable … which means that when it comes to negotiation time, you find it’s you that holds the cards – not just the client – and you can go about building a mutually beneficial relationship that flourishes on trust, not ever decreasing remuneration levels.
We’re not in it together, but we can be.
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