What makes a brilliant agency/client relationship?
Team ITG’s Strategic Creative Director, Claire Roshanzamir, answers the question that has filled blogs and discussion forums for years.
How do we find that magic sweet spot between an agency and client, recognising that the different approaches, skill sets and the ‘I need/you provide’ equation ultimately boils down to a gang of people working together to make something great happen?
Having had our world turned upside down in the last three months, these relationships have been under the spotlight more than ever. We’ve all had to wrestle with Microsoft Teams, trying (and invariably failing) not to talk over each other, peering at work on the screen, crowding into playbacks and generally continuing as if nothing has happened, whilst adapting to the fact our world has seismically shifted.
But what has emerged is a whole host of deeper, more entwined, more empathetic client/agency partnerships. New relationships have been fast-tracked and older ones have grown stronger roots.
These ‘work marriages’ have been tested and those who have stood up to the demands put on them have thrived.
Seeing each other more matters
In many teams and partnerships, geographical distance has always been a blocker. Whilst we at Team ITG have lots of our people working permanently in client offices, the usual set-up is quite different. Agencies are often in big cities because of the rich talent pool they offer, and clients can be absolutely anywhere. Before, we lived in a world of weekly status meetings, of ‘away days’, of planning – spontaneity wasn’t impossible, but it needed some…well, planning!
Since Covid-19 has forced change upon us, we’ve realised that working online means we can all be in the same place, at the same time, more easily. Quick half-hour check ins have popped up, daily catch ups to chew the fat that can run over because no-one has to run for a train – it’s all become so much more possible.
Recently, our team attended a virtual ‘away day’ with over 50 attendees from the client and all of their agencies – not without some trepidation, it’s worth adding. But it was a massive success! A brilliant blend of great guest presenters, wellbeing break-out sessions, the obligatory quiz and a whole pile of energy, fun and arguably (and surprisingly) just as good as you’d hope to get from its physical counterpart. Plus, it was bit more helpful, in that you didn’t have to feel guilty about sneaking out to write an email in the break, you could keep one eye on daily stuff in the background.
Seeing and talking more means we can work more iteratively
The agency ‘reveal’ is legendary. The fanfare that precedes a playback always seemed part of the dance, but who has had the time or inclination for that in the last few months?
We’ve all been moving too quickly and working out things together, tackling the issue of how the brands that we collectively nurture stay relevant, stay supportive and keep growing.
It’s far more common now to have a kick-off brief session (that everyone asks if they can listen into) and then only a few hours later to be back together, mulling over some questions together, or making changes already.
Playbacks are happening iteratively – it’s far more ‘Like what you see? Great, we’ll keep going…’
No big reveal, but no big misses either.
Challenge and disagreements are good for a healthy marriage
For those of us who have sat in both agency and client camps over the years, we know that feeling that can creep in of being sure you have the moral high ground:
The “Why didn’t they just follow the brief? / Do what I asked? / Go faster? / Go cheaper?” feeling vs the “Where’s the brief? / Surely that can’t be the brief? / What do you mean ‘back in an hour? / I can make this amazing! (If only you’d let us)” feeling.
Recent months have blurred this, and the need for collective speed and brilliant thinking has meant that across the teams, we’ve developed a much healthier freedom to speak your mind and challenge, to disagree, to come up with Plan B.
Let’s face it, like any good marriage, it’s not a relationship that should be built on servility or dictatorial behaviour. It’s about having different opinions, different strengths, different ways of coming at the same problem.
By being further apart, we’ve got closer
In many ways, pre-Covid we were closer together – we could hug each other, or crowd into a meeting room or huddle round a screen.
But in so many ways, this enforced separation between our own teams and between us as agencies and clients, has brought us closer together. We see each other more, make faster decisions, debate more, speak our mind more. Overall, just have a more vibrant, healthier relationship.
I, like so many of us, cannot wait until Covid-19 is far, far behind us. But I’ll be taking these new ways of working with me, for sure.