Someone told me years ago that 'meeting with your advertising agency should be the best part of your day.' This really stuck with me, guiding my path as an account executive at SBA.
As a client, your agency should be inspiring you, challenging you, and pushing you to think in a new way. As an agency, your client should be bringing valuable perspective from the inside that you can’t garner from research. That said, oftentimes the agency-client relationship is stilted and not viewed as a partnership, which can result in the work not living up to the potential of either party.
The foundation of a strong agency-client relationship (and any relationship, for that matter) is trust. The client must trust that the agency is working in their best interest and dedicating the time and energy promised to the project. The agency must trust that the client will be receptive to the ideas they bring to the table and also that they have done the necessary work to thoroughly complete the brief.
On top of trust, an actual relationship should be formed. The long lost days of meeting clients for lunch or coffee and talking both about work and life are vital for building rapport with one another. This rapport is what makes it easier to communicate on a day to day basis and also helps when problems arise to come together to find solutions.
The benefits of having a strong agency-client relationship are endless, from ease of work to just simply making the work fun. But most importantly, being able to have honest and frank conversations between agency and client will actually help the success of campaigns. This is especially true when you’re testing creative or media in-market. It is important for both parties to feel comfortable addressing what could be better or where optimizations might make sense. If there is no foundational relationship, feedback tends to come across as blame and solutions come from a place of defensiveness. That oftentimes means the best solutions that are collaborative and thought-through are left off the table.
So, if you're not excited each time you see an email from your agency or client, and conference calls are stale and unproductive - it's time to get to work on the relationship. it is in the interest of both parties to form a positive relationship and do good work. Start with a cup of coffee together (over Zoom these days) and soon enough, you’ll discover all the doors that a strong relationship will open to driving real results.