ANA Studies Agency-Client Relationships

NEW YORK A survey conducted by the Association of National Advertisers that will be the basis of a “marriage counseling” book for clients and their agencies, has found that the involvement of senior management is key to smoothing out a rocky relationship.

“You often have very junior people who are managing the client relationship and they are often not schooled in doing it, simply because they don’t have the experience,” said Barbara Bacci Mirque, senior vice president at ANA. Furthermore, an extended chain of command can lead to a breakdown in client input during the reworking process, Mirque said. Involving senior management at the forefront prevents miscommunication, she said.

Advertisers and agencies were given a survey with 15 multi-part questions on client needs, complaints and solutions. Preliminary data suggests that top on the agency wish list are clients who “provide clear, consistent direction,” while advertisers seek out partners for their strategies and effective campaigns.

“Its all about the marriage,” said Mirque. “In the courtship phase, what are the advertisers looking for? … If you have had a problem, what are you doing to fix that?”

Nearly 30 percent of clients complained about “work that isn’t always on strategy” and high production costs. Nearly 20 percent said “creative arrogance” stood in the way of a harmonious relationship, while high fees remained a sore point for about one in five clients.

In response, more than 80 percent of shops surveyed said they would be willing to get top agency management involved, while about 73 percent said they would be willing to change their process or their team, if necessary. About 35 percent said they would change compensation, and about 45 percent said they would invite clients to take part in interviewing new hires.

“We want to write a book that’s almost what a marriage counselor would do,” said Mirque. “Here is what you can do for a healthy relationship.”

While some of the results may seem like common sense answers, not all agencies and clients are following that good judgment, Mirque said. The survey’s preliminary figures show just one in five advertisers have an evaluation process. “How can you really have a great relationship if you’re not providing each other feedback?” she asked.

The full results of the study will be available at the ANA’s Agency Relations Forum, rescheduled for April 20. The book, written by Joanne Davis, will also be available at that time.