AAR highlights clients' criticisms of agencies

Britain's agencies are proving a turn-off for clients who regard their attempts at being "cool" and "trendy" as self-obsession, according to new research.

Instead, clients want to see less arrogance and a more down-to-earth attitude from agencies, which should show they are just as hungry to understand clients' business issues as they are to sell a great ad.

The findings come in a pilot study commissioned by the AAR among 20 of its clients in a wide range of sectors, whose annual adspends range from £500,000 to £25 million.

The pilot is the first stage of what is planned to be an annual initiative by the AAR to gauge the state of relationships between agencies and clients.

Next year's effort will be expanded to include more clients and will include input from agencies.

The research cites client worries about changing agency personnel, perceived lack of interest in their business objectives and a failure of accountability, as the main reasons for breakdowns in relationships.

Personal chemistry emerges as a key factor in building a strong bond between agency and client. The fact that agency senior staff are fielded at pitches, to then have no further involvement in the day-to-day running of the business, angers many clients, the survey reveals.

Their need for personal rapport is also reflected in the survey's conclusion that increasing numbers of clients are favouring "workshop" sessions with prospective agencies rather than a pitch.

Martin Jones, the AAR's director of advertising, said: "It's not that the traditional creative pitch is dead but clients are busy people and want to be sure about the people they're going to be working with."

The research was carried out by Express Train, the training consultancy run by the former Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO planning chiefs Jackie Boulter and Peter Field.

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