A New Era in the Agency/Marketer Relationship

As businesses move forward in the new year, they are facing an environment that is fraught with change, significant economic uncertainty, and a vast array of new technologies in communications and marketing; a continually fragmented marketing economy.  It shouldn’t be surprising that marketers and their agencies are about to experience fundamental changes in their relationship.  Traditional time-tested marketing agency models are under notice that significant change in organizational structure, products and services, and marketers’ expectations are upon them.

To gain insight into what changes are on the horizon, one only needs to ask the marketers (clients) what they will be expecting from their agency in the coming year, a seemingly elementary approach and investigatory tool that has escaped routine practice in many marketer/agency relationships in the recent past. Marketers today are expecting their agency to be a jack-of-all-trades, but also expect them to stay true to their core expertise, conflicting expectations that will require a newly expanded relationship to be built on collaboration between marketer, agency, and industry partners who will provide services outside the scope of the agency. Finding an avenue to facilitate and manage this new approach becomes a critical piece to the “Team” puzzle.

Expectations from the client will continue to center on the quality of relationships that emphasize the team’s understanding of the business and taking pride in the work, fostering proactive leadership and insight, and a steady stream of creative ideas and executions. Marketers will command team stability, increased responsiveness, and consistent, predictable deliverables.

While the death of the traditional agency model has been approaching rapidly for some time, tighter budgets and increased competition have forced alternative business models into in the execution stage. McCann-Erickson’s incoming agency chief executive, Ben Lilley, has slashed middle and senior management roles, saying ”A clear delineation between suits, creative and production, is a very old-hat way of thinking about agencies,” he said. ”Technology has forced our industry to evolve, and obviously that means that agencies need to evolve as well.”

To continue to be successful, agencies will need to become better about listening and learning about their clients’ business. And as the new relationship matures, the model will need to continue to change and adjust to provide an ever-increasing level of value to the client.

Contributions from both sides will be necessary to establish mutual trust. Seek out and offer honest assessments of expectations and performance. Provide real answers and solutions. Encourage flexible approaches to challenges. Most importantly, share a commitment to achieving mutual marketer/agency goals and objectives.