I was fortunate enough to have spent 20 years in this region working on both sides of the fence as a client, and once as an agency advocate. When I was on the agency side, the blame was directed at clients for not being focused, not being decisive when it came to making bold decisions, not having a clear plan or a strategic view of where the business is heading, having small budgets, etcetera. When I moved to the client side, the blame game shifted, and it was now the agency that was not fast in turning the work around, was not creative enough, did not provide the most cost-effective rates in town and, at times, and did not show that it understood the brief.
Having been the witness and sometimes the judge on both sides, I am certain that “it takes two to tango”. Quite often, we see entities working in silos and missing on the most basic aspects of the business, which is establishing mutual trust, and understanding each other’s needs.
At the heart of any business and/or human relationship lies promise and delivery on that assurance to cement trust. As such, I am outlining some suggestions that both parties can take in order to enhance their relationship and elevate the state of the industry.
Tips to the agency:
• Agencies tend to present credentials that prove irrelevant to clients, while they can show some added value by performing due diligence about their prospect and adding value through sharing proposals that make common sense.
• Agencies usually tend to impress their client in the pitch encounter and enthusiasm falters afterwards. Agencies need to learn that they have many more chances to impress, and that their might and creative muscles do not stop with the pitch; in fact, it really starts upon winning the business.
• Agencies must be more involved in their client’s business, understand the challenges and be realistic on how to deliver on such challenges, while not compromising on the creative output ( i.e. delivering creativity that sells and meets clients’ objectives).
• Agencies need to be flexible when agreeing on their compensation models and not just stick with the commission-based model, which is directly linked to client spend. It could be a combination of both fees-based, on-time allocation, as well as media commissions.
Tips to the client:
• Clients should be more decisive and clear when it comes to the criteria of agency selection; what fits for client X does not necessarily work for client Y.
• Clients must take more time to get agencies on board, to get them involved in their businesses, align with them on key strategic challenges and outline them, while identifying short-term tactical deliverables.
• Clients should motivate the agency to deliver great work, identify and reward them for the things that matter, and attach value to them.
• Clients should sometimes take a leap of faith, take into account and hear agencies’ recommendations as they are, and not censor them all the way along.
Tip to both agencies and clients:
• Carry out systematic quarterly evaluations of each other’s performances; assess what is going wrong and correct it, and note what is going right and build on it on both sides of the equation. It is often talked about, but not really done.
More importantly, I strongly recommend, to the whole industry, an annual gathering in the form of a conference, where international, regional and local clients and agencies can get together, and have the chance to talk to each other and discuss the challenges and opportunities they are facing at a collective level. This can be achieved by fathering a consortium of ten clients representing various industries, meet with media, creative and digital agencies, and establish a cornerstone for setting guidelines and best practices for the future of the industry.
Nothing should stop this from happening. The region has what it takes.