Client / Agency Relationship Evaluation Consultancy

“I’d like to improve the effectiveness & efficiency of our relationships with our creative, media and PR agency partners.”

 How good are our relationships and what actions should be taken to achieve better results?"

An effective and complementary client/agency relationship is not automatic - it needs to be nurtured through ongoing communication.  Effective and trusting relationships are also two-way – both agency and client must work hard to ensure success.  Both sides must understand what they are expected to do, how & when they are expected to do it, and how well they are doing in order to improve.  Good relations also achieve better results. Evidence from the UK is that clients that view their agencies as partners (as opposed to suppliers) have stronger, more satisfying and more productive relationships. 

ARC developed a research paradigm for client/agency relationship nearly twenty years ago, in the early 1990s.  The result was the Evaluating Advertising Agency Performance report, published by ARC and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA).  This was updated with a second edition.  The approach to the research was also published in academic journals and conference proceedings, including ESOMAR.  Since then ARC’s relationship evaluation has been used extensively and even licensed to other countries.  It has also been copied by competitors - in question phrasing but not in root understanding.  Whilst the research has been updated to reflect market changes the underlying academic approach has remained true and consistent.  Over the years ARC has worked with many clients and their agencies - from single relationships in the UK to pan-European evaluation of creative, media and PR relationships.  ARC has also worked with some clients over many years, helping them to stay at the top of their game.

Best practice relationship management includes regular, formal and two-way evaluation.  The vast majority of UK advertisers formally evaluate their advertising agency.    The specification of the roles of the agency and client and the regular monitoring of overall and specific performance provides a benchmark for progress and a foundation for constructive dialogue enabling and encouraging action to be taken to improve performance.  Formal agency evaluations are also useful to ensure that unspoken assumptions are not misplaced.  They remind all of the expected roles and progress against workplans. 

The principal aim of the evaluation is simple - to improve future performance and relationship quality through the adoption of contemporary best practice.  However the agency evaluation is also tied to the agency’s remuneration.  The majority of UK advertisers now offer their agency bonuses for the achievement of agreed targets; over 90% include an agency evaluation in that PBR scheme.    

Regular actionable reviews can enable a re-appraisal of the respective roles of client and agency. The more aware that agencies are of advertisers changing needs, the better they can satisfy them. Typically a formal evaluation should encompass the agency’s output (e.g. the advertising), the agency’s product (task competencies in all disciplines), agency service (e.g. reliability, responsiveness) and the relationship quality (communication, values and trust).  The evaluation should be conducted with a positive tone aimed at mutual improvement, not as a stick to beat the agency (or client) with.  

An evaluation of the agency by the client (or vice-versa) is of course entirely subjective.  It is therefore useful to add an objective element to the process by benchmarking performance against a comparable base. How well an agency is truly performing is also a matter of how good it is perceived to be against the competition.  Objective benchmarking provides a more stable means of tying performance-based remuneration to evaluation. A benchmark comparison may therefore be useful to show what can reasonably be expected from the agency and to provide reassurance that any PBR payment can be more fully justified.

Because it is based on ARC data you can be sure that CARE is independent, academically rigorous and entirely confidential.   

To try CARE for yourself simply get in touch with Jonathan Lace at ARC by e-mail