In today’s world, the client-agency relationship is perpetually in flux. Agencies have been trying to extend the life of their last winning formula ‘More for Less’ and protect business. There is a constant fight to grow and be the biggest, not necessarily the best. The agencies have failed to realise creation of this self-defeating proposition.
Size was considered a necessity. It insulated agencies from threat of disintegrating. But, now it is the cause of making them too slow an elephant to own. The organisation and the individual remain spectators while business gets realigned or shifts due to lower and many times underquoted retainer-ship amount. They can do nothing when idea from a lost pitch gets executed. The wait for the next avatar of Vishnu to fight this system is a wasted dream.
The first mover advantages, the creative awards, the IPR on processes disguised as differentiators is not even discussed. On the other hand, all parameters like understanding client business, speed of operation, level of innovation, being in sync with global trend and technology and an innate desire to experiment and innovate, the agencies and advertising business seem to score low. This makes the client seek out willing partners, anyone who will take them to the next level, much beyond the traditional decreasing marginal growth. The orgasmic pleasure of creatively well delivering campaign been replaced by the new high one gets from a well delivering campaign that is involving, engaging and use the technology of today.
The client has been shouting ‘more’ and the agency has willingly been delivering more. Unfortunately like every 3rd brief they have misunderstood the message. The client is not saying more quantitatively but more qualitatively. They want to reinforce trust and the agencies been giving no reason to reinforce it. The agency has stopped treating the client as a girlfriend. They have stopped experimenting and surprising the client. They have stopped investing in the relationship and trying to keep it on a high.
May be it is the time to say ‘No More’. It is understandingly a tough decision. But there are other ways the agency-client relationships need to explore. They need to retry enhancing ‘Trust’ that has slowly but surely been eroding. The Brand Custodian instead of investing in the brand was busy keeping business safe from rival agencies.
Agencies have forgotten that the basis of the relationship was the expectation of being surprised, differentiation and unexpected moves that were always based on new insight or trigger. The impotency of insights driven from similarly defined TG and uniquely mirroring research techniques is not unexpected. More so the industry talent pool is genetically corrupted. These are the forgotten promises and IOUs that are due. Life on borrowed and half-baked analyses is over. Half-knowledge and faked passion may still win pitches but they definitely kills brands and relationships.
Today, information and technology is parity, the advantage may come by marrying Neurosciences or Semiotics and cultural understanding. Unfortunately, in a hurry to be one-up, agencies have been serving half-baked tools and fully fried concepts, topped with nice looking charts and cool sounding research that are more post rationalisation of the concept. A sure recipe for brand disaster
Clients are clients. It is in their DNA to drive home the bargain. They have to get that extra shot at no cost. They want to extend the pleasure from every encounter. Throw in dreams of future possibilities and pretend appreciating agencies point of view. If you still believe that the trust level between you and the client is high, wake up and act. You are no longer protected by keep giving More for Less, that is definitely not the next high your clients are looking for.