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Advertising Opinion South Africa

Cultivating creativity through strong client-agency trust

A strong client-agency relationship can streamline your entire creative process. A good relationship positively impacts the whole creative workflow. Unfortunately, the converse is also true.
Source: © 123rf  Ann Nurock, partner: Relationship audits and management, Radar, examines what a strong client-agency relationship entails
Source: © 123rf 123rf Ann Nurock, partner: Relationship audits and management, Radar, examines what a strong client-agency relationship entails

The recent Cannes State of Creativity Study showed that the agency-client relationship impacts the creative workflow. It can lead to creatives feeling undervalued, which leads to lower quality and less innovative work.

On the client side, many clients don’t believe they are deriving value from their agencies.

As Victoria Sjarden, VP marketing The Kraft Heinz company says,” You will succeed or fail based on you as a client. So, if there is a problem, 50% of it is your problem.”

What's the solution?

Building a solid relationship involves open discussions, shared values, and appreciating each other’s cultures. A client-agency partnership can't just rely on contracts and resource plans.

It's about standing together and facing the challenges that will inevitably come up.

Creativity can't thrive without trust, and trust is something you build over time.

Trust takes time

Marcel Marcondes, global CMO at AB InBev and a two-time creative marketer of the year at Cannes Lions said that in their business, they need to take risks, and for that, they need trust.

While trust takes time, the best work comes from long-term client/agency relationships, which begs the question of why some clients go out to pitch every three to five years.

As an example, AB InBev has worked with Ogilvy for over 50 years. Vaughan Croeser, VP marketing at SAB, echoes this sentiment and implements a strong culture of creativity in everything they do, which has led to outstanding results, like SAB's record high volumes in Q1 2024.

Mutually beneficial relationships

I have worked on agency-client relationships with Radar for many years. Here are some of the points I believe make these relationships mutually beneficial:

  1. Meet regularly in person instead of relying on emails or texts and get to know the client's business and challenges.
  2. Collaborate on creating briefs. Agencies should be curious, and ask lots of questions about the client's business to build trust and tailor responses to their needs, delivering real value. Successful client-agency relationships are marked by a collaborative approach to problem-solving.
  3. Both the client and agency must be aligned on the objectives of the brand/business. This means ensuring that both parties understand the goals, target audience, and metrics for success.
  4. Get strategy and creative teams involved early on. The sooner they're involved, the better the collaboration.
  5. Clients should set up more immersive and inspiring briefing sessions.
  6. Allow client and agency teams the freedom to brainstorm without restrictions.
  7. Build creative confidence and encourage psychological safety within organisations, which is essential for fostering a creative culture.
  8. Include KPIs and conduct quarterly and annual reviews with agencies to discuss what's working and what isn't. This encourages regular feedback and adjustments.
  9. Share ideas generously to break down barriers and build trust. Being open to creative concepts can foster a stronger, more collaborative relationship.
  10. The industry is constantly evolving, and both clients and agencies must be willing to adapt to new technologies and trends.
  11. Celebrate successes.

In my experience, the best-in-class agency and client relationships are marked by a collaborative, transparent, and flexible approach to achieving shared goals.

About Ann Nurock

Ann is a Partner at Relationship Audits and Management, a global consultancy that measures and optimizes client /agency relationships. Her proprietary Radar tool is used by 30 corporates globally and as a result she interacts with over 80 agencies of all disciplines. Ann spent 25 years plus in the advertising industry as CEO of Grey Advertising South Africa, and head of the Africa region followed by President and CEO of Grey Canada. Contact details: moc.stiduapihsnoitaler@kcorun.nna | Twitter @Annnurock

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