Agencyclient chemistry: demographic and psychographic influences

Michael T. Ewing,
Curtin University of Technology, Australia
Tanya M. Pinto,
The Richards Group, Dallas
Geoffrey N. Soutar,
University of Western Australia

INTRODUCTION

One of the major challenges facing advertising agencies is to maintain longterm, mutually rewarding relationships with their clients. In past years, successful partnerships lasting decades were not uncommon. Some of the world's most admired brands have been with the same agency for many years. Today, however, this trend has reversed. A recent survey by the AAAA found that the average tenure of clientagency relationships had declined from 7.2 years in 1984 to 5.3 years in the 1990s (Gleason, 1997). Another North American study found that major advertising agencies could expect to lose twothirds of their current accounts over a fiveyear period while, in the United Kingdom, advertisers change agencies once every 4.5 years (Michell, 1990). As Marconi (1998, p. 14) observed, agencies and clients come together after an exhaustive review process, only to begin a new relationship that is rich in misunderstanding and high in anxiety. There are many factors that have contributed to this decline. However, West (1997) found that all seven criteria identified by clients as significant in selecting an agency had a basis in individuals' personalities. In reviewing why agencies lose clients, Belch and Belch (1998) listed personality conflicts, poor communication and personnel changes as the more common reasons. Similarly, Michell et al. (1992) pointed to agencyclient personality conflict and changes in agency personnel as significant determinants of client dissatisfaction.