How brands can best manage agencies

24 March 2017

LONDON: With the media landscape becoming ever more complex, brands face difficult choices over whether to go in-house or continue to rely on outside agencies.

So if they stick with their agencies – whether a one-stop, network shop or a "best of breed" agency alliance – it is essential for brand marketers to adhere to some core principles to get the most out of the relationship.

That is according to Merry Baskin, the founder of planning consultancy Baskin Shark, who has written a Warc Best Practice paper that draws on industry insights dating back almost 40 years and updated to reflect current challenges.

Among her recommendations, she says that transparency and teamwork are fundamental and that it is also essential for a client to encourage open dialogue and listen to differing points of view from their agency.

"Good marketers should expect to be challenged by their agencies – you are paying for their skills and experience," she observes, while adding that clients must encourage collaboration if they are going to get maximum value from their agencies.

Baskin goes into further detail in her paper, referring to guidance put forward by marketing consultant Philip Ley, a former Marketing Director at Sky and SEGA Europe.

She also refers to a seminal presentation delivered in 1978 by Jeremy Bullmore, the former Chairman of J. Walter Thompson, who set out the "10 Tried and Trusted Ways of Getting the Least from your Advertising Agency".

Bullmore's presentation covered 10 common mistakes that risk damaging the client-agency relationship, including such tongue-in-cheek observations as "Keep them in the dark", "Never admit to a mistake", "Change your company's main contact with the agency at least once a year", and "Demonstrate a complete absence of concern about agency profitability".

Turning to Philip Ley's eight key recommendations, as highlighted by Baskin, brands are advised to hire the best specialist agency for each discipline, regardless of affiliation.

They should conduct a centralised briefing meeting with all agencies present, while making it clear that the communications strategy or creative idea can come from anywhere on the roster.

In addition, brand marketers should insist that agencies present their first ideas together, which will help each of them to learn about what the others are doing, and it's best if just two people from each agency attend the regular team meetings.

Finally, regular meetings should be held with all agencies, whose budgets should be completely transparent to the others.

Data sourced from Warc