What goes around comes around
One of the interesting things about advertising when you have been around as long as I have is that there is not a lot that is really new. Things that you have, learnt or heard seem to come back as contemporary trends with amazing regularity. I was reminded this week reading about Andrew Little’s recent appointment as the new CEO of the DDB group. For someone who has been at DDB for 21 years he is well qualified to make some observations on the state of the relationship between clients and agencies. Sure, there were the usual points about clients wanting and needing a holistic view of their brands, and that briefs were more about business problems than marketing problems, but the point that came home to me was how long many of DDB’s clients had been with the agency. Interestingly McDonalds have been with the agency 50 years, Johnson and Johnson 25 years, Volkswagen 20 years and Westpac for 10 years.
To really understand a client and to understand the business you have to be immersed in it. You need to understand its culture, its values, its competitors and importantly you need to fully understand its business model. When you get a brief, you then understand the game plan and the broad company strategy you are trying to impact. The advent of NDA’s (non-disclosure agreements) and some genuine trust has created a situation where the financials and sales information are now more frequently shared making the communication a lot clearer.
In the last twenty years we have seen the growth of the internal advertising department, the separation of skills into specialist agencies, and the rise of the digital agency. Now we are seeing, for a whole host of reasons, the re-emergence of the one stop shop, or as some of us old-timers describe them the full-service agency.
No doubt the world is a different place. Micro marketing is alive and well. CRMs are more powerful than ever, and online is the new battleground. The tools and drivers may be a little different but the need for agency teams to truly understand a brand, its competition and how it exists and grows within a company is still the same.
The importance of long-term client agency relationships should be encouraged. That is not to say it should not be challenged, but too often an organization change of executive becomes the catalyst for an agency review.
Whilst familiarity can breed contempt, if you look at those brands that consistently grow you normally find a close working relationship between agency and client. It is as true today as when I started in advertising. Good work comes from solid partnerships based on trust and respect.