Home Marketer's Note The Client-Agency Balancing Act: Efficiency Without Constraint

The Client-Agency Balancing Act: Efficiency Without Constraint


joannaoconnelrevised“Marketer’s Note” is a regular column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. This week it is written by Joanna O’Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

Agencies are walking a tightrope. On the one hand, they are asked to be innovative and strategic thinkers and lead their clients toward brilliant marketing solutions; on the other, they are told to be lean, streamlined machines, delivering results cheaper, faster.

I was reminded of this recently while speaking with a global account director from one of the leading holding company shops for my upcoming report, “When and How to Take Programmatic Media Management In-House.”

He said:

“Nearly all of the RFPs we are going through are procurement-driven. We end up competing on fees, and guaranteed savings from negotiations, and signing up for a customer relationship where there are high expectations and very lean fees.”

What was specifically illuminating about this for me was my own experience of going through pitches while at an agency, where the sell was highly strategic, heavily focused on our agency’s deep understanding of a) our potential client’s business challenges, b) the shifting consumer landscape and, c) the massively disruptive technologies, both consumer-facing and advertising-specific, that required our mastery to drive successful results.

So, in that light, his comment was downright depressing.  A market reality for many agencies, but depressing nonetheless. Because the reality is, even when we won with the strategic sell, we faced cost pressure from multiple angles.

The good news is that my research IS uncovering successful stories of client/agency partnership.  The key is “partnership” in the truest sense of the word – shared vision and responsibility, open communication and very little client obsession with getting anything “on the cheap.”

To that end, I’m really looking forward to hearing Kraft’s Bob Rupczynski and Starcom’s Tracey Paull co-present at Programmatic I/O on September 17th – I think there’s a lot to be learned from these two about how an agency/client relationship CAN work.

The long and short is that no party is solely responsible for making the relationship work: when clients blame their agencies and agencies blame their clients, however, it’s almost guaranteed not to.

More to come from me on this subject, of course!


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Follow Joanna O’Connell (@joannaoconnell ) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter. 

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