As advertising management consultants specializing in making agency and other marketing communications resource relationships as healthy and long lasting as they can possibly be, we believe a periodic relationship “health check-up” is critical.
- Over the past 24 years we have learned that every Advertiser/Agency relationship has a lifecycle. Currently yours is somewhere on that continuum.
- The goal of every enlightened advertiser and agency is to make the relationship as long lasting and healthy as possible.
- Today we are helping many advertisers successfully extend their agency relationships. Where do you fall on the continuum depicted and described here?
This is always a rewarding time for both advertiser and agency. A long, stressful ordeal has come to a satisfactory conclusion. Each party looks forward to a mutually successful and rewarding relationship. Celebrations are frequent and appropriate as a new marriage is consummated.
Once the contract and compensation details have been worked-out, this is a period of learning, immersion by smart agency folks in the advertiser’s business, new strategies and exciting creative ideas. Everyone is on their best behavior and communications between individuals and the companies are the best they will ever be.
Both sides are comfortable now and a sense of true “partnership” pervades the relationship and will continue for an indeterminate period of time. New programs have been initiated and appear to be working, staff on both sides have gotten to know each other fairly well and a sense of trust has developed. Communications between advertiser and agency have become the routine, day-to-day type without the need for addressing major issues.
For any of a variety of reasons, including changes in management or other key personnel on either side, business results or budget allocations, the advertiser begins to challenge many of the agency’s recommendations, actions and/or motives. Existing communications channels are often not appropriate and both parties adopt an approach-avoidance mode – the advertiser because they don’t want to upset important, current projects and the agency because “if we’re are not hearing anything, everything must be OK.”
Agency account service folks begin to be questioned by the advertiser on a variety of subjects. Many are cost and staffing oriented, but strategic, media and creative recommendations are questioned, as well. Too often account people can’t or won’t answer these questions fully or in a timely manner. Worse, they do not alert senior agency management that can and will provide the answers. Advertiser questions pile up and are cataloged internally.
This is the last point at which a relationship can be salvaged for the long-term.
The seeds have been sown. The advertiser now has concerns about whether the agency has its best interests at the forefront. Are the agency’s actions and motives all self-serving? “Are we getting what we are paying for in agency services and advertising results?” Trust has now become a real issue for the first time. Disappointment is palpable.
Information is only information until it becomes criticism. Confrontation, warnings and additional “chances” are the order of the day. Agency management is scrambling for a fix, but every attempt meets with new problems and renewed criticism. Bitterness has begun to develop on both sides. The relationship seems to be in a downward spiral and the pace is quickening.
The advertiser knows that the end is near, although the agency may not have yet realized the fact. Silence at this stage certainly does not mean “everything is OK.” Communications are cut at all but the most essential day-to-day levels. The advertiser just doesn’t care anymore. The inevitable is written, but they are just not ready to move right now.
Somewhere between revenge and avenge, this is the stage where advertisers often extract the last pound of agency flesh. They argue over invoices, withhold payments, cut fees (go on a project basis) and farm work out to other communications resources. Sometimes the last “last chance” will be a large, speculative strategic or creative assignment designed to let the agency “win back” the business. They don’t and they don’t get paid for that last chance.
Here we go again. How long has it taken? Three years? Five years? It all went by so quickly, for both advertiser and agency. It was extendible if not preventable.
Give Wanamaker Associates a call. A long agency relationship life is more effective, efficient and productive.