Building the perfect client/agency relationship

Building the perfect client/agency relationship

The Client/Agency Bond

I definitely don’t consider myself to be an authority on this subject, but I’ve been in the business for 20 years now and have experienced all sides of our industry’s spectrum. Having been through the worlds of Media, Agency, Client and then back to the exciting and creative life Agency side, I’ve garnered significant experience. Here is what I believe to be some factors that make a great “couple”.

A Love Affair

There is no myth to dispel here, but let me be honest: I don’t think there is such a thing as a naturally perfect Client/Agency relationship. Some research seems to suggest that this relationship is bound to be dysfunctional on a global scale. However there certainly are ways of creating a winning formula. It takes two to tango and there  are many examples of great relationships out there – just look at any beautiful campaign. Every time we see a great campaign, we cannot help but think “What a fantastic client”.
Finding a level of natural, effortless understanding between both sides is paramount to the relationship. After all, an extraordinary business relationship in our industry, coupled with the obvious need for exceptional teamwork and talent, can be the catalyst for perpetual creative and effective marketing. Whether you are a client or an agency, work for it together and you both will be rewarded with results you can be proud of.
Mutual respect and trust are two essential elements in this bond. When we work with clients who “get us”, who trust our capabilities and who respect the creative process, both in terms of time and (obviously) fees, the creative output simply hits another level. Harmony is a great state to be in, and is a state which every client and agency should seek for mutual benefit.
Once a creative team can meet to discuss and brainstorm a project without feeling the pressure of time, whilst being in good harmony with the client/brand, creative workrate hits top gear. I’ve seen some pretty amazing things happen in such conditions. I call it Exponential Creative – that moment in a creative session where every member is feeding off each other and building fantastic ideas that are quickly superseded by even better ones.
But there also is an important ingredient that amazingly, sometimes is actually missing from the pie.

What Brief?

I’ve learnt how to write a good brief when I first studied the subject of Marketing (at school!)… never mind how long ago that was. We’re in 2015 and yet, I keep experiencing and hearing from friends in other agencies, that the written brief is somewhat mysterious. It appears, every so often. Let me make this clear, and I’m pretty sure that my peers would agree: The best work ALWAYS came from a well-written brief. Yet it seems to be something that is far too often undervalued.
client agency relationship
The written brief is not important. It is essential. Be it a creative brief or one of a tactical nature, it should be written by the client and should be done with obsessive attention to detail and thought. It should also be read by the agency with a passion towards the brand, to clearly understand the project and interpret it correctly. Any unclear brief should be clarified. I cannot stress this enough – it really is the Agency’s duty to make sure that nothing ambiguous is left that way. Read some tips here and here.


Every agency should aspire to output the best work at all times and every client has the right to push its agency to its creative limits. We always aim to push our own limits, doing it religiously. But I’ve experienced situations before in my career, where clients push their agency for more and being received with disappointment from the agency’s end. Any pushing from the client’s end should always be met with a positive mindset. Many a time, I’ve seen remarkable results coming from this sort of client prodding.
Dear client, please be constructive, sensitive and polite, and make sure that any issues do not arise from a lack of information in the brief.
Dear creative, even your most prized work will get critiqued and may also be ditched, so do send it off with a touch of humility and zero expectation.

My Advice

– Treating each other with due respect and trust doesn’t just mean being nice most of the time. Yes, being polite at all times should be a given, but you should both obsessively seek that effortless understanding. If you know you are on the same page at all times, trust will simply be the bi-product.

– Communicate well. Write good briefs without fail. Read and interpret them properly and where unclear, ask.

– Truly treat each other as though you are one and the same team. An Agency/Client relationship is not one of a buyer/seller nature. You are one team. You win together. You lose together. Pointing fingers when things go wrong does nothing positive to the relationship. If you made a mistake, admit it to yourself and others on the team. You’re human. Everyone makes them.

– Make sure that you deliver what you promise. There is more to business than contractual obligations. There is your reputation and the relationship at stake. If you said you would deliver remarkable work, a brief, a payment, whatever that may be, by a certain date – deliver.

– Push yourself at all times and be ready to give and accept constructive criticism. It is an important element in transforming great into remarkable.

Your relationship MUST be mutually beneficial. You’ll quickly see that respect rewarded with trustworthy, timely, creative work, and a business relationship that is quickly becoming extraordinary, ultimately resulting in giving you a remarkable product.

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