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Client Agency Relationships: Value Creation or Value Destruction?

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Client Agency Relationships: Value Creation or Value Destruction?

  1. 1. Client-Agency Relationships Value Creation or Value Destruction? Professor Tim Hughes Dr Mario Vafeas
  2. 2. Research Method  25 one-to-one interviews with clients, agency management, and agency creatives (nine case studies) in 2013-14  Additional qualitative data from three workshops in 2014  Survey questionnaire (64 responses from agencies) in 2014
  3. 3. Client resources Agency resources Interaction process and Resource integration Creative output Relationship climate Co-creation
  4. 4. The Brief Agencies say…  Lack of focus  Lack of information  Lack of senior manager sign-off  Lack of time (and money) Clients say…  Lack of interrogation by agency  Lack of alignment  Agency cost estimates unrealistic
  5. 5. The Brief Agencies Say… Clients say… It’s very rare we get a clear brief. (Creative, case 1) We’ve improved our processes so things are better now than they were. (Marketing Manager, case 1) The junior managers give you changes they want made before it goes up the ranks. You make a whole set of changes. Then you show it to the senior stakeholders and you find out it was off brief in the first place. (Account Director, case 3) We need to put the energy at the beginning to make sure the brief is absolutely right and that we’re clear about what ‘good’ looks like. (Marketing Director, case 3)
  6. 6. Agency Perceptions of Client Brief Item Mean score The brief contains sufficient information 1.92 The brief contains a clear focus 2.53 The brief provides sufficient time for the job 2.47 The brief provides sufficient budget for the job 2.66 5=strongly agree, 1=strongly disagree N=64
  7. 7. Knowledge and Skills Agencies say about (some) clients…  Lack understanding of creative process  Inability to evaluate creative work Clients say about (some) agencies…  Lack of understanding of client world  Narrow creative horizons
  8. 8. Knowledge and Skills Agencies Say… Clients say… No, I don’t always feel confident if I’m perfectly honest and that’s why I try to make it a conversation with the agency so I can get their opinions. (Head of Marketing, case 6) There’s a lot of people out there who think they know what they’re talking about but don’t. Some can be open to learning from their agencies, but others are defensive and purport to know when they don’t. This can compromise the quality of work. (Managing Director, case 9)
  9. 9. Agency Perceptions of Client Skills Item Mean score Clients are good at writing a brief 2.23 Clients are good at articulating what they want 2.63 Clients are good at evaluating creative work 2.59 Clients understand the creative process 2.30 5=strongly agree, 1=strongly disagree N=64
  10. 10. Have you ever had training in judging creative work? 1 2 3 0% 73% 27% 1. Yes a very full training 2. I have had some training 3. I have not had any training
  11. 11. Has any of your agencies offered you training in judging creative work? 1 2 91% 9% 1. Yes 2. No
  12. 12. Goals and Value Judgements Agencies say about clients…  Risk-averse Clients say about agencies…  Too safe OR  Radical just for the sake of it  Enhancing their creative reputation
  13. 13. Goals and Value judgements Agencies Say… Clients say… They’re going to research the hell out of this and we’ll be left with a generic piece of work (Creative Director, case 2) We’re trying to sell a product; they’re trying to promote their artistic work (Marketing Director, case 3) You need more than one option but I think the ‘safe, middle of the road, and radical’ approach is the agency covering all the options (Head of Marketing, case 6)
  14. 14. Interaction ‘Battle’ 8 mentions ‘Conflict’ 8 mentions ‘Fight’ 7 mentions
  15. 15. Interaction Agencies say about clients…  Prescriptive  Poor process management Clients say about agencies…  Inflexible and stubborn  Account managers can impede communication
  16. 16. Interaction Agencies Say… Clients say… They are stubborn and I have to say to them ‘unless you shift your position, we can’t go forward’ And yet, despite this happening year after year, they continue to insist on doing things their way and it delays the process. (Brand Manager, case 9) They end up restricting themselves and don’t get any value out of using us. You end up as the person moving the mouse for them. (Creative, case 5) Clients can sometimes say ‘I don’t really like it, it’s not really doing what I want it to do’ but what they really want is help to fine-tune their thinking rather than us saying ‘OK you don’t like that, we’ll change it’. (Managing Director, case 9)
  17. 17. Relationship Agencies say …  Danger of complacency  Treated as a supplier not a partner  Better output for clients we like Clients say …  Threat of opportunism  Lack of transparency  Good relationship helps the work  Poor management of staff turnover
  18. 18. Relationship Agencies Say… Clients say… If it doesn’t work out, you fire them and get another one (Brand Manager, client workshop) You get used to working with clients and give them what you think they’re going to buy, but you stop inspiring them. Then they wake up one day and realise they’re not getting the creativity they want. (Creative Director, case 7) I’d like to think the relationship helps the work. I’d like to think they like working with me. We’ve got to know each other and it helps us get the best out of a project. (Brand Manager, case 8)
  19. 19. Top Ten Tips for effective, efficient, and collaborative client-agency relationships
  20. 20. Autonomy - Trust the agency’s expertise - But sometimes “just do it” is inevitable 10
  21. 21. Expectations - Alignment around brief and output - Stakeholder consensus and sign-off - Transparency regarding costs 9
  22. 22. Communication - Clients open to hearing the truth (within reason!) - Instigate formal two-way appraisals (with fair and constructive feedback) 8
  23. 23. Commitment - A degree of client commitment increases agency motivation - Negotiate space for risk-taking and proaction 7
  24. 24. Creatives - More interaction between client and creative 6
  25. 25. Manage staff turnover - Handover - Communication - Senior manager involvement - Knowledge management 5
  26. 26. Education - Clients open to training - Agencies can (and should) help 4
  27. 27. Mutual understanding - Understand each other’s worlds 3
  28. 28. Industry standards - Provide adequate resources for the task - Agree service levels - Free pitches devalue creativity - Opportunism destroys trust 2
  29. 29. Nurture (not Nature) - Joint responsibility to maintain and develop relationship value 1
  30. 30. Can We Help You?
  31. 31. Can we help you?  Neutral and objective  Extensive experience in management roles in clients and agencies  Can work with agencies, clients or agencies and their clients  Share results of research  Facilitate staff in coming up with ways to improve the effectiveness of the client/agency relationship
  32. 32. The process 1. Agree objectives 2. Run workshop to identify key issues, action plans for improvement and ways to judge implementation 3. Review implementation and adjust action plans 4. Establish policies and processes to maintain improvements.
  33. 33. Example Area for improvement Issues identified in research & workshops Actions to address issues Meeting client expectations Importance of good communication and continually managing client’s expectations Importance of client induction and of client having knowledge of agency processes Is the client aware of timing required for different types of jobs? Is the client aware of the costing process? At what stage does the client need to sign off costs? Would additional training help the client in dealing with the agency (for example in judging creative work)?
  34. 34. Our motivation  Demonstrate impact from our research  Engagement with the marketing and creative community  Opportunity to develop the research further (using anonymous examples)  Good use of allocated research time (but not unlimited!)