The word ‘partnership’ is often used about client-agency relationships, but agencies are often first to be cut when marketing budgets come under pressure; both parties need to be flexible, says executives from Coca-Cola and IAG.

When soft drinks giant Coca-Cola hit the pause button on commercial advertising in the Philippines, and re-channelled US$3m (₱150m) towards supporting COVID-19 relief efforts, its agencies initially applauded the move.

“Their first reaction was, ‘This is awesome, this is bold’,” Pratik Thakar, Coca-Cola’s head of integrated marketing communications for ASEAN, told the recent Can Do Festival organised by The Drum.

“But on the second or third day, they said, ‘Hey, what about our business?’” he recalled. “We had to reassure them that our partnership remains.”

And that reassurance was backed up with action. “We started creating briefs for this new world and they got much more comfortable,” Thakar reported. ”They knew their business was not impacted.”.

IAG has taken a similar view of its agency relationship. While the pandemic has led to massive cost-cutting for many companies, Brent Smart, chief marketing officer of the Sydney-based insurance company, stated that agency fees would be one of the last things he would cut from his marketing budget.

“I was very quick to tell our agencies we would keep paying our fees,” he said. “I want to retain the best talent. I want to support my agencies.”

As he sees it, while any client can pay an agency to provide a set amount of head hours, great work comes when talent goes beyond the call of duty.

“If you’re a client who can inspire agency talent to want to work for your brand, you can get this incredible discretionary effort from the creative people – and also get a whole bunch of hours that you don’t pay for,” he explained.

“For me, that’s not about the vanity of being the favourite client of the agency, it’s a commercial decision.”

For more, read WARC’s report: Speed, trust and inspiration: How the client-agency relationship is evolving.

Sourced from WARC