cultivating relationships
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1. The three key components for good client-agency relationships are chemistry, creative thinking and compensation.

Chemistry: The first question you should ask in a review is, "Do I want to spend time with these people?" Agency executives do not need to be your golfing buddies, but you must share similar values and ways of working. Do you want your agency to challenge you? How does the culture and organization of your company affect your relationship with your agency? We make sure the agency you choose is in sync with you on these critical issues.

Creative Thinking: Agencies believe they have an expertise that you do not. It is with this philosophy that they approach a problem, make recommendations and prove their worth to you. Unlike other service professions where you receive exactly what you want, agencies may not give you everything you ask for. As a result, it is imperative that the review process requires agencies to articulate and demonstrate how they creatively solve problems. We help you evaluate agency creative processes and judge which agency will give you the most value.

Compensation: At the end of the day, it's all about the money. If compensation is not prioritized in the review, the client-agency relationship will fail over time. The cost of the actual work performed—not hours based on broad, predetermined estimates or commission rates—should determine an agency's compensation. Clients should buy an agency's output and nothing more. And ONLY give the agency a profit if the work — works!

2. It starts but does not end with a written scope of work.

Clients and agencies usually write a SOW at the beginning of their relationship. But when the real work begins, this document typically gets put to the side. Why? Simply put, client-agency teams do not have the systems, data or discipline to make their SOW an active or workable way of managing agency assignments. If SOW is not managed, projects can be added that do not benefit the client, increase cost and waste, and do not optimize agency resources. We believe managing the ever-changing marketing process is essential. It ensures that clients get the output they need, agency resources are focused responsibly and client dollars are being spent in the most effective way.

We feel SOW is so important that we will not take on an agency review without a clear understanding of what is expected from the winning agency and how SOW will be managed after the review is over.

3. No "pay-to-play" money should be required from agencies.

Review consultants have a responsibility to give clients their best and most impartial advice when selecting agencies. We never accept compensation from agencies to provide consulting or new business advice before, during or after a review. Nor do we annually charge agencies to register or keep materials on file in our library. We believe this practice is unethical, archaic and is widely resented by agencies. To be truly accountable and able to provide clients with objective advice, review consultants cannot work for an agency's new business department or accept money for these types of services. We believe this is simply a conflict of interests.

4. You must be at the pitch to consult.

It sounds obvious, but many times clients are left on their own for the final presentations. We don't believe this is in clients' best interests. Agencies can be very seductive and entertaining at final presentations and they can camouflage their true capabilities. In order to responsibly provide input on the creative thinking showcased during the review process and to help clients stay true to what they were originally seeking in an agency partner, consultants must observe the final presentation. The decision of the winning agency is without question the client's call, but consultants should do more than coordinate the nuts and bolts of the review process. Simply put, they should consult.

5. Experience trumps process.

The agency review process is a straightforward and largely logistical exercise. Therefore a consultant's value is not based solely on their ability to facilitate the process or even on their knowledge of agency credentials and capabilities. The true value comes from the consultant's national or global experience and prior executive positions. Without this background, consultants cannot advise clients on all of the issues that can affect the client-agency relationship in the long term. Nor can the consultants expertly evaluate the quality of thinking presented by the agency candidates. We believe clients value a review consultant who has held global positions and has worked with some of the world's best advertisers. This is the type of experience and value that provides.