Agencies weak at communicating with clients, says survey

Agencies need to shake off their stupid and dated internal ways, according to a survey conducted by USA Today and independent agency RPA.

Hyundai Assurance: ad campaign was regarded as risky by some says survey
Hyundai Assurance: ad campaign was regarded as risky by some says survey

Tim Leake, RPA’s senior vice-president of growth and innovation revealed the comments, which came out of a survey of 143 senior agency and marketing professionals, at a talk during Cannes Lions today.

One anonymous client from the survey said that their professional success had nothing to do with an agency’s creative idea, while an agency member remarked that clients got in thier way, stopping them from producing good work.

The survey was designed to explore client-agency relationships and found that agencies spend too little time on interpersonal communications with clients, failing to leverage their own skills and putting up barriers to creating great work.

Ninety-eight per cent of the 143 senior agency and marketing professionals surveyed agreed that the best work comes when clients trust their agencies, but 56 per cent of marketers surveyed said that agencies were more interested in selling their work than solving clients’ problems.

Seventy six per cent of agency executives agreed that they were good at demonstrating a return on investment, but only 40 per cent of clients said the same. Also, 90 per cent of agencies surveyed said they understood their clients' businesses, but only 65 per cent of clients agreed.

And while 76 per cent of agency executives said that their clients were too afraid to take risks, one client commented:  "We are interested in making waves, but not just for the sake of it."

Leake also said that agencies failed to recognise the distinction between "risk" and "different", using the example of Hyundai’s Assurance programme, which allowed people to give back the car they had bought if they unexpectedly lost their job.

"People said it was really risky," said Leake about the Hyundai campaign, "but really it was just a money back guarantee."

When asked how the best creative work could possibly move a business, clients on average said 26 per cent, while agencies said 48 per cent, although that increased to an average of 78 per cent when responses higher than 100 per cent were included.

To improve agency-client relationships, Leake suggested four things that agencies could do: Focus on interpersonal communications as much as mass communications; work with clients to define and understand the evolving role of creativity; support our clients, and recognise the distinction between "different" and "risk"; and, practise the art of business as much as the art of advertising.

According to Leake, whose agency had partnered with USA Today to anonymously survey agencies and marketers about their relationships, agencies spend too little time on interpersonal communications with clients, failing to leverage their skills.

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