The key to productive agency work is a combination of a longer relationship, and a careful balance of scope and budget, a new report finds.

The World Federation of Advertisers’ Effective Agency Management report, created in association with The Observatory International, is based on responses collected in Q4 2018 from 42 client-side marketers representing 35 different brand owners across 14 categories. In total, respondents collectively spend just under $50 billion on advertising globally.

The research looks into clients’ views of what makes an agency relationship work. A majority (65%) of multinational advertisers believe a long-term relationship is either important, very important or essential in producing great work. Just 12% say the length of relationship is irrelevant to making great work.

Realism when discussing scope and budget is very important to a good working relationship. There is increased pressure for marketers to deliver more with less, but by dodging difficult conversations about budget and scope it’s easy for frustration to build up between clients and their partners. While 45% of respondents say they supply their agencies with ‘reasonably’ detailed scope of work, 24% only provide a general overview of key initiatives.

Though questions of agility have seen changes on both sides of the equation: not least with some clients choosing to in-house some media or creative capabilities, while agency groups have worked to break down silos in order to deploy total capabilities across their groups, partnerships for the long-term appear to be the most fruitful.

Respondents were far more likely to rate the work of their agencies as excellent or very good if they were retained compared to those who worked with agencies on a project basis. Creative and media agencies typically enjoy the longest relationships with 36% of respondents saying their media agency had worked with them for more than five years and 34% saying their creative agency had been a partner for a similar amount of time.

Length of relationship also displays some effect on the perception of quality. The most pronounced type of agency for which this is seen is in the creative agency space. Among respondents rating their agencies as “good”, 86% worked with a retained agency, while just 14% worked on a project basis.

An overwhelming majority (81%) of large companies said they worked “very collaboratively” with their agencies, but just under half (45%) called their external partners an “essential part” of their team.

Stuart Pocock, Co-founder and Managing Partner of The Observatory International, noted the impact of clients, too. “Clients play a huge role in ensuring whether their relationships deliver at an optimum level. Changing their behaviours can play a critical part in ensuring minimum disruption and the cost of having to find new agency partners.

“A commitment to regular monitoring of agency performance also ensures outputs and relationships stay on track by identifying issues before they become critical,” he explains.

The findings show that clients are aware of where they can improve: though 79% agreed that great briefing was essential to great work, not a single company in the study reported feeling their briefing was excellent. A large minority (43%), meanwhile, said their briefing was adequate, poor, or very poor.

Sourced from WFA, The Observatory International