Sign up here for the latest articles
By Cliff Campeau
Principal of AARM, Cliff Campeau, asks how can we establish client-agency relationships that endure the test of time?
“In God we trust, all others we audit”
Perhaps I was fortunate. Perhaps it was a sign of the times. When I began my career at J. Walter Thompson, we took great pride as an organization in the number of client relationships that we had, which were measured in decades. Clients such as Ford Motor Company, Unilever, Kellogg’s, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft Foods, and others were celebrated, revered and nurtured.
Not unlike today, there were challenges to be faced and pressures to be dealt with, whether market-driven or internal. So, what allowed those relationships to flourish through good times and bad?
The answer was simple. Trust and a mutual commitment to the partnership combined with alignment on business objectives.
Today it is believed that the average length of client-agency relationships is around 3½ years. Is this reduction in longevity correlated with the fact that there has been a slow, but steady erosion in the level of trust between advertisers and their agencies? Consider that a couple of years back, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) conducted a survey and found that only 29% of its member marketers ranked the “current level of trust between client-side marketers and ad agencies as high.”
A waning level of trust can inhibit communication between stakeholders leading to difficulties that throttle the productivity of the partnership. Conversely, as Stephen Covey once said:
“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”
Thus, if you believe that stable, long-term strategic partnerships are more conducive to achieving an organization’s business and marketing objectives, then the obvious question is “How can we establish client-agency relationships that endure the test of time?” The answer seems obvious… addressing the issue of trust.
In our experience, there are three fundamental steps that can be taken to build and maintain trust between advertisers and their agency partners.
We have seen first-hand the benefits of this proven formula in promoting transparency and bolstering an organization’s trust in its agency partners. Thus, marketers and their agency counterparts should consider embracing this approach to strengthen and reinforce long-term agency-client relationships by ensuring a solid footing.
About the author
Cliff Campeau, MBA, PCM® is a Principal with AARM.