OPINION: Accountability benefits both agency and client

It’s almost inevitable that when advertisers start talking about greater accountability, mutinous mutterings emerge from agency boardrooms and creative departments. You can almost hear the hissing about clients who have already screwed margins to the floor.

It’s almost inevitable that when advertisers start talking about greater

accountability, mutinous mutterings emerge from agency boardrooms and

creative departments. You can almost hear the hissing about clients who

have already screwed margins to the floor.



Without a doubt, the declared intention of the Incorporated Society of

British Advertisers to bring UK advertising practices into line with

those of the US, by moving towards a common benchmark for agency

performance (Campaign, last week), will provoke further grumbles.



There is no need. The growing preoccupation with accountability goes

hand-in-hand with the recognition of the importance of agencies to

commercial success.



For years, agencies complained of not being taken seriously enough by

clients. Small wonder, when the business was perceived as frivolous and

badly managed.



Today’s agencies generally present a self-confident and mature face and

have raised their status significantly.



The result of advertising’s coming of age is that it is now seen as a

driving force for growth within client companies. As such, it must be

seen to be proving its worth, not only to marketing managers, but

financial directors too.



No agency worth its salt should be intimidated by what is happening. But

accountability has to work both ways.



The best sign of a thriving agency and client relationship is when

senior managers from both sides sit together at regular intervals to

discuss each other’s respective performances, without feeling fearful or

inhibited.



Sophisticated clients will heed ISBA’s warning that the establishment of

a performance standard isn’t a licence to beat up an agency or review

the business. They will also recognise that performance standards in

advertising will inevitably be somewhat subjective.



If the accountability process is well managed, each side benefits.

Agencies can get to grips with client needs and any renewed attack on

margins can be nipped in the bud.



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