Agencies and clients may have the same goals but tensions often arise when the two differ on how to get there, according to two senior client and agency executives.

Lakish Hatalkar, managing director of One Johnson & Johnson, and John Bailey, president director of DDB Indonesia, told the recent Spikes Asia conference in Singapore that an enduring client-agency relationship requires give and take from both parties. DDB and Johnson & Johnson have been partners in Indonesia for more than a decade.

“In the end, an agency and client relationship is a lot like marriage,” Hatalkar said. (For more, read WARC’s report: Johnson & Johnson and DDB Indonesia on enduring client-agency relationships.)

As Hatalkar sees it, while “agencies and clients want exactly the same thing”, tensions sometimes arise. Being invested in making the relationship work over time, especially in fast changing markets such as Indonesia, is important.

“(The relationship) has changed with the market force [but] the work we do doesn’t know these silos,” he said. “We just have to create the right experiences the consumers want, so this is what this is about. We have evolved, but at the end of the day, we need to be able to build a relationship.”

The road to great work is not usually easy – and companies should expect to be challenged by the agencies they work with. As Bailey put it, “If we don’t argue, you don’t get the work”. Having the difficult conversations – rather than avoiding them – is an important function of a healthy client-agency relationship.

Respecting talent is also essential: getting in the way instead of empowering people to do what they were hired for, is counter-productive and can sour ties: “that is the most frustrating thing you can imagine both for the agency and the client side,” Hatalkar said.

“Our job is to get the best people in on the client side, on the agency side, and unleash their potential. Our job is to get things out of the way, so they can live and grow to what they can truly accomplish within their power.”

Sourced from WARC