Successful agency-client ties: Mantras from India’s top 5 ad honchos - 1

Agency-client relationships have been the focus of several debates, discussions and reports. Some relationships have endured for decades, while some break down after just a few months. There are several factors that contribute towards cementing strong bonds. And as in the case of any relationship, there are pressures that one need to address and nip in the bud, some threats that could lead to parting of ways. At the same time, there are ways in which to salvage a relationship that is headed downwards. 

Adgully spoke to some senior advertising honchos who have seen all aspects of an agency-client relationship and have a world of experiences, mantras and advice to share. Read on... 

On forming bonds that endure 

Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO - South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network:

Ashish Bhasin
Ashish Bhasin
The most fundamental glue for any agency-client relationship is Trust, which is not just only monetary issues but also the client trusting his brand, which is his most precious belonging for an agency and an agency treating it like their own. On the other hand, clients must trust their agencies to cover their backs and not look to make them fail, particularly in today’s competitive environment. However, one has to recognise that the industry is more competitive today and there are pricing pressures on the client and procurement issues have come up which makes client revaluate their agencies and all vendors more frequently.”  

Naresh Gupta, CSO, Managing Partner at Bang in the Middle:

Naresh Gupta
Naresh Gupta
Trust is the only way through which relationships can be built between two organisations. It is necessary to keep the organisational perspective, because people keep changing. Yet, this is the most difficult thing to arrive at because Trust is not easy to build.” 

Sabah Iqbal, Head - Account Management, Mumbai at DigitasLBi:
“I have seen an evolution in the way clients perceive an agency today – be it ATL, media or digital. The quality of the association is no longer purely dependent on the length of the relationship. Clients are looking for agencies that partner them in addressing real business challenges and take on varied roles by seamlessly transitioning from being a domain expert to marketing and business consultants.” 

Joemon Thaliath, CEO, FCB Interface:

Joemon Thaliath
Joemon Thaliath
“An agency and client need to work hand in hand to counter and sustain under the forces of the changing market ecosystem. Like any other relationship, an agency-client relationship needs care, time and most of all, commitment. It would be an injustice to lay down the commandments for an ideal agency-client relationship since it goes beyond boundaries and norms. It takes collaboration and the spirit to work without being pulled down by shackles of ‘agency-client’ clichéd relationship. I believe the agency-client relationship should be like the FCB motto: Never Finished. Asking, at every point, what more can we do and what does the brand need next. 

Some ingredients that define the recipe for a perfect utopian relationship: 

  • Partnership mindset, mutual respect-the key to building and nurturing long term relationships
  • Regular and effective communication forms the core of any relationship. It’s important at every level, from the AEs to the CEO, talking to your client and listening to them, regularly
  • Think communication, not just advertising. This ‘bigger picture’ thinking and putting the brand first is what we need to adapt and succeed in the changing ecosystem”

Dhunji Wadia, President, Rediffusion Y&R:
“A successful agency-client relationship would be one that is built on mutual trust and common intent/ shared vision.”

The red flags to watch out for 

Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO - South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network:
“Taking each other for granted and differences in ideas and working style are major factors that lead to the end of an association between a client and agency. The key to a successful relationship is mutual trust and respect, and wherever that breaks, the relationship is doomed to fail sooner or later. Being disrespectful of the agency personnel is a key factor that can push an agency to terminate their relationship with a client.” 

Naresh Gupta, CSO, Managing Partner at Bang in the Middle:
“Relationships end for only two reasons – cost and lack of performance from the agencies. If these two don’t act as an obstacle, then the relationship will never end.” 

Sabah Iqbal, Head - Account Management, Mumbai at DigitasLBi:

Sabah Iqbal
Sabah Iqbal
“There are a few factors that lead to this unfortunate action. One of the larger reasons is the global mandate change. This is not an agency-only occurrence, with large clients needing to end associations due to shifts in global empanelment. Another factor that sometimes leads to such an event is an overall mismatch of vision for the brand. In such situations, post trying really hard to fix it, it’s beneficial to both parties to move on to avoid the client’s brand from suffering.” 

Joemon Thaliath, CEO, FCB Interface:
“Collaboration and communication are the two important C’s that form the backbone of a healthy relationship. Instances of not working together as partners can be the bone of contention between the agency and the client that might even lead to calling off the association.” 

Dhunji Wadia, President, Rediffusion Y&R:

Dhunji Wadia
Dhunji Wadia
Lack of transparency and poor communication: Trust is the one of the most important factors that helps maintain a great client-agency partnership and poor communication or lack of transparency can create a distance.

Lack of mutual esteem: Respect is another main ingredient that helps build a fruitful relationship, if that gets vitiated then it's time to re-evaluate the relationship. 

Commercials/ Budget: The agency should be fairly remunerated.” 

Tomorrow: How to resolve differences and planning for the long term

 

Advertising
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