Client-agency relationships: improving relations

Client-agency relationships: improving relations

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Agencies are from Mars, and clients are from Venus right? Fiddlesticks, as my mother used to say. Sorry, but it’s rubbish, says Kevin Chesters

I mentioned in my last post that an old boss of mine asked me (when I returned from client-side after a very enjoyable and enlightening three-year stint as a client at BT) to write a presentation on how it was oh-so-very-different working for an agency versus working for a client.

I realised through the process of doing it that it wasn’t really that different at all. The agency and the marketing client are basically seen as the same thing by most people at the client organisation (i.e. somewhere between a hopeless cost-centre and a hospitality engine).

But yet... loads of myths exist on both sides of the fence about the other one. And here are a few of them – take a deep breath.

Agency-folk are overly emotional, highly sensitive flowers who only care about winning big awards and couldn’t give a stuff about the business side of things. They all live in 'that London' and this therefore (obviously) invalidates their opinion on EVERYTHING outside of London.  

Clients are all pragmatic, single-minded, ruthless creativity killers and only care about the bottom line. They need to be incredibly carefully 'managed' because if they’re not watched like hawks 24/7 they will squeeze the creative life out of any great ideas the agency wants to make. They are far less cool and intuitive (obviously) than agency folk and they only want big logos and bigger product shots.  

Agencies are trying to hoodwink you into buying the solution that’s best for THEM, and clients are hell-bent on stopping anything creatively interesting happening. Right?


Myths myths myths.
Yet they exist and persist.
But I think I know what we can do about it.

My epiphany came in two forms:

  • First, when I gave my 'Venus/Mars' presentation at Google for clients, and at the agency for my colleagues. I asked for a show of hands at both meetings about how many people had worked on both agency and client-side. I was met with only one or two hands at each place. These myths, like most myths, are largely based on ignorance of the other side.
  • Secondly, when a junior account person at my agency (who’d been full of myths) came back from a secondment to the client-side with a true appreciation of what her opposite number had to deal with (from her colleagues, and from her agency)

So, therein lies the issue. The myths persist because of this lack of appreciation and experience of the two opposite sides of the fence. Right, the first law of therapy is identifying and admitting the problem. We’re getting somewhere.

Next time: How we can make sure we bust the myths and make sure they stay dead.

Kevin is executive planning director at mcgarrybowen London. Read more from him in our Clubhouse.

Author: The Marketing Society
Posted: 16 Dec 2013
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