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RSVP and Nexus Awards – any feedback?

March 15, 2010

If anyone wants to feed back to us thoughts, comments and ideas following this year’s RSVP and Nexus Awards, then please either send a comment via this forum or email, or


Contribute to the survey

March 8, 2010

Marketing Association survey on client/agency relationship here.

‘We’re in this together – working towards more productive agency and client relationships’

March 8, 2010

Last week I was passed this opinion piece from Online Metrics Insider, about the questions CEOs and CFO use to short-circuit otherwise brilliant marketing careers.  It reminded me that the pressures marketing teams and agencies face are largely one and the same.  We are in this together.

A lot has been said about what Marketing must do to “show the value of Marketing”. Even more about how agencies must change to be accountable.  But what of the Agency & Client relationship?

Even the best Agency and Client relationship can get entrenched in the general delivery of things. The transformative power of communications gets lost in the detail of the weekly wip.

If you think that has happened in your relationship then it may be worth asking these three questions:

  1. 1. What could we both do to foster proactivity around the big issues?
  2. 2. How might we turn our relationship reviews into something productive for both businesses?
  3. 3. Is unclear governance bogging us down or taking focus away from the things that matter most?

Some recent experiences have taught me that it pays to apply discipline and rigor around things that I used to think I could take for granted.

  1. 1. Fostering  proactivity in a time poor world:

Some of the most powerful ideas I have seen evolve in agencies have come not from communications briefs but from open ended business challenges.  Just getting those opportunities demands focused proactivity. Sadly proactivity does not bubble up like mineral water or emerge by hiring naturally proactive people.  It requires planning. Specifically Client Plans.  Client plans are time consuming and prone to gathering dust but they can be the mother of proactivity.  If I had been more determined and insistent about client plans over the last ten years then I would have achieved better results.

Proactivity also demands that clients open up a direct (and fast) line to business issues, insights and future plans.  Sometimes I’ve come across an institutional reluctance to share those very things. This can of course reflect a lack of trust or confidence in the agency to put that kind of information to good use. But if you are a client who is thinking that, then maybe you are with wrong agency?  Clients that invest time sharing business challenges and customer insight as well as what keeps their CEO awake at night will generally get the most proactive and considered work.

Proactivity (as in “why is my agency not proactively coming to me with more ideas?”)  is a two way street and not something to expect of an agency partner without encouragement.

  1. 2. Make relationship reviews more productive: focus on the outcomes vs not just the things we want from each other

Are your reviews focused on how the relationship can achieve big business outcomes, or are they a mechanism for agency and client to test whether each is performing?

Agency side, are you coming into the next review defending your track record and crafting your case for a better deal?  Client side, are you only focused on whether your agency is delivering?

Both perspectives are fair but limiting unless there is something bigger in play. That big thing, how to foster and deliver work together that gets big results, can get lost in the review process.

Perhaps that’s why I have finally embraced the idea that surveys (like APRAIS) can work.  I used to feel that was “my job” but that independence can and does help. Independence need not come from a global consultancy, but I have come to believe some form of facilitation will keep all eyes on the prize.

I have also come to believe that it pays to involve more people (agency & client side) in the feedback process.

  1. 3. Good Governance is not just for consultancies and project managers

Tight governance and Rob Limb have not been the coziest of bed partners over the years. But I have seen the difference that a more rigorous “professional services” approach can make.

Agency folk like me can be nervous of the very notion of governance.  Too much process gets in the way of that spirit to woo and conquer.

But paying attention to scope and governance (beyond the narrow confines of a contract) can be more of a saviour than a threat. For both parties.

Without governance  I have seen even the best intended and talented agency people (often planners) appear like exotically beautiful but wholly unwelcome weeds in odd parts of the client garden.

All I mean by governance is a willingness to assess and agree:

  • Scope of relationships:  What should agency seek to influence and resolve? Is there a line? Where is it?
  • Roles and responsibilities of key people on both sides.
  • How the agency can access people and resources inside client organisations.
  • Expectations around communications.

Coming back to the agency game in the last 3 years has shown me that these questions are too often left to chance.  I have seen at least one agency relationship breakdown in the last year because of it.

I have even embraced the role of the dark star of Procurement in the last year. But that’s another story.

As for clients’ side I’d say, do not leave it to chance or your agency.  But I’d also urge that you give your agency the opportunity to form relationships beyond your span of control.  And be clear about the role you play in facilitating those relationships

Last word:

Client and Agency fears and aspirations are surprisingly similar. We share the similar nightmares and dreams. The more we can do to be open about our respective business aspirations, fears and even uncertainties the better.

I realised that part of the equation quite early (after around 10 years) but it’s taken a few more grey hairs for me realise that it takes discipline as well as candor.  Passion is not enough.

For many of us on the agency side embracing those disciplines can feel restrictive, but I now believe there’s more to be gained than lost.

For clients I believe that agency proactivity demands as much of you as of your agency partner.  And that governance and review process must be shaped with both parties at the table.

As a last word, in case anyone thinks I will be off to 6th Sigma training camp any time soon, I still believe that without the right people, the right culture and the right fit (and the odd long lunch) no amount of discipline will get you beyond good enough.  Come to think of it you probably won’t have any fun either.

Robert Limb, Rapp

Seminar: How to get the most out of a client/agency relationship

March 7, 2010

We’ll be running a seminar towards the end of May on the topic of how to get the most out of a client/agency relationship, through the MA and organised by ‘Northern Region’.  To support this there is a survey being run through the MA’s Snapshot email that is going out this week, which should give us some simple stats we can use as part of the stage setting.

We’re looking for suggestions of people to invite to take part – senior clients and agency folk who can speak well and have the requisite experience to demonstrate good examples and anecdotes of what makes a good relationship.  The format will be short presentations from speakers, and then a panel discussion and questions from the audience.

Please comment via the blog or email suggestions to

What this blog is all about.

March 7, 2010

MAC set this blog up last year as a way to start sharing articles and ideas relevant to agencies, and agencies and clients.  We felt it was better to set it up and see if it was of value – blogs live or die by their utility.  So it’s here, we’re using it for a few things, and now that it has been more widely promoted we’re expecting it will generate some value.   Feel free to submit a post or comment.

Got clients that need help thinking what is important?

March 7, 2010

The Five Questions That Kill Marketing Careers

Pat LaPointe, Managing Partner at MarketingNPV, provides chilling insights into how to deep-six your career in a memorable Online Metrics Insider <> .

According to Pat, these are the five key questions that have been known to pop up in discussion with CEOs/CFOs, often short-circuiting otherwise brilliant marketing careers.

  1. What are the specific goals for our marketing spending, and how should we expect to connect that spending to incremental revenue and/or margins?
  2. What would be the short and long-term impacts on revenue and margins if we spent 20% more/less on marketing overall in the next 12 months?
  3. Compared to relevant benchmarks (historical, competitive, and marketplace), how effective are we at transforming marketing investments into profit growth?
  4. What are appropriate targets for improving our marketing leverage ($’s of profit per $ of marketing spend) in the next 1/3/5 year horizons, and what key initiatives are we counting on to get us there?
  5. What are the priority questions we need to answer to inform our knowledge of the payback on marketing investments – and what are we doing to close those knowledge gaps?

How you answer these five questions will get you promoted, fired, or worse — marginalized.

So what should you do?

Pat provides specific, actionable, accountable recommendations.

If you’re a marketer, this is a must-read <> .

Caples in New York

March 5, 2010

Who is going ? It would seem we might have something to collect, anyone fancy volunteering?