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"Clients are from Mars, agencies are from Venus"

Advertising and Promotion

Defining the lines for the client and the agency to produce a productive, mutually rewarding and lasting relationship

By Johanna McDowell, MD of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS)

Like any new or existing relationship defining your boundaries and maintaining open healthy dialogue are keys to a long lasting client-agency relationship.

However in reality, cracks in the relationship start to appear because very often clients and agencies are not on the same wavelength and don't fully understand the dynamics and the day-to-day running of their respective business.  In fact clients often have been heard to say" they just don't get us" when talking about their agencies.

A perfect match requires the agency to fully understand the clients' brand and brand ethos, while clients have to understand the creative dynamics of their agency.

The truth is that while agencies would like their clients to engage more with them, executives in general have become less engaged with their agencies and probably only spend about 20% of their time working with agencies. While Marketing Directors are responsible for managing the advertising strategy, this is only a very small part of what they do.

It is important for the agency to take into account that they have been selected to handle the advertising campaign and to deliver effective marketing campaigns that meet the client's objectives. The client does not have time to monitor an agency and very often, if the agency is unable to meet the deadlines, a divorce can be on the cards.

According to research conducted by the UK-based AAR Group, who have been experts in client agency relationships since 1975, the perceptions and reasons behind breakdowns in relationships often differ widely between the client and the agency.

The AAR has deduced from its research that it looks like "clients are from Mars, agencies are from Venus". In theory, it was obvious as to what both parties should be doing to make the relationship work.

This is where a specialist consultant like the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS) comes into play. The IAS like its international associate, the AAR Group, has positioned itself as experts in client-agency relationship management. The IAS is committed to closing the gap between agencies and clients.

Finding the right match
When a client is looking for a new agency the IAS plays a valuable role in eliminating those that are simply unsuitable. Quality control is important to ensure the right agency fits the client's requirements.

Before the pitching process the IAS will research an agency's ability, track record with clients and creativity.

Our role is to manage both the agency and client expectations. We ask the client the qualifying questions. Why has the existing relationship broken down with the current agency? Why are you looking to change?

Sometimes rescuing the previous relationship is more beneficial because changing agencies can be disruptive.

What is the budget? What will the client's level of involvement be? What do you want to achieve? What are your turnaround requirements? The expectations of the client and the agency need to be spelled out from the word go.

An important role the IAS play is to manage these expectations. The IAS prides itself on being a neutral independent organisation that favours no one. The IAS extensive research and knowledge about the agencies in the market allows for valuable recommendations that will be most suited to the client.  

Matching the personalities is also essential to strike up the right chemistry in the first meeting. Chemistry like in any relationship gets each party excited, the creative juices start to flow and an environment of trust is formulated. While an emotional connection is not the most important factor to the relationship, the chemistry between the agency and client is a vital ingredient in the matchmaking process.

Our role as an independent body is to help both parties put in place a strong foundation that will produce high quality advertising campaigns that everyone can be proud of and that will produce the results that the client is seeking. Above all the IAS plays an important part in helping both parties come to a common understanding to ensure a lasting relationship.

About the IAS
The IAS (Independent Agency Search and Selection Company) in association with the AAR Group (UK) was founded in South Africa by the Mazole Holdings Group in 2006. IAS specializes in helping clients find agencies. International associate company AAR Group, was founded more than 30 years ago in the UK and has associates and branches throughout the world, the most recent being IAS. The Independent Agency Search & Selection Company is committed to the international and local pitch guidelines as defined by both the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising UK) and the ACA (The Association of Communications Agencies SA). 

Mazole Holdings is a South African company owned 60% by Dan Moyane, and 40% by Johanna McDowell. Mazole focuses on building businesses in the marketing and communications space.

IAS is the co-founder and sponsor of the annual Baobab Awards with Ad Review.

For more information contact:
Jodi Lynn Karpes
Independent Agency Selection (IAS)
084 876 5431

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