American Client Agency Relationships under Microscope

26 April 2004

US advertisers want agencies which produce effective campaigns, according to a benchmark survey on best practice by the Association of National Advertisers.

They’re also seeking outstanding and well implemented ideas.

The findings are hardly eye-opening. Clients have always demanded Rolls Royce performance. Often claiming they’re paying first class fares but getting coach class accommodation.

However, according to ANA President Bob Liodice, the association embarked on the project to "gain a clearer understanding of what makes a good relationship tick."

The survey of 100 major advertisers revealed that 95% of clients wanted "responsive" agencies which provided "outstanding" service, regardless of industry or company size. Encouragingly for the agencies most respondents felt these requirements were being met.

Broadly speaking, clients said their creative partners provided teams which understood their business and could deliver solutions swiftly. Eighty-seven percent stated agencies developed effective campaigns.

The old chestnut of strategy being too disconnected from creative was a gripe with 24% of those questioned. Similarly, work that wasn't always on-strategy and high production costs caused problems for 23% and 22% of respondents respectively.

Creative arrogance, it seems, is almost a thing of the past. Only 15% of respondents considered this an issue, while just 26% of advertisers reported a "serious" problem with an agency in the past three years. The majority agreed their agencies fixed the problem once they were put on notice.

The survey also took into account the views of more than 100 agency professionals. Mutual respect and trust were high on the creatives' agenda with 57% stating this.

Pivotal to a good working relationship were team and periodic management meetings, respectively (86%) and (85%).

Agencies said they normally resorted to bringing in senior management to resolve problems identified by the client.

There was also some indication that the issue of agency transparency is being taken seriously. More than two-thirds of respondents said they were providing better explanations of agency processes including the often vexed question of costs.

Data sourced from: ANA; additional content WARC staff