Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
A view from Arif Durrani

Agencies must play their part in good relationships

Last week's column on trust has clearly struck a nerve, with many agency leaders agreeing there needs to be better understanding between clients and agencies.

For some, part of the problem is that, from the pitch process onwards, clients tend to send procurement teams and marketing teams into agencies at different times. When you have both sides in the room at the same time, it is far easier to have grown-up conversations and achieve the right focus on value and not price.

Nurturing trusting relationships is key as the media business grows in complexity. As the chair of the IPA Media Futures Group, Tom George says clients need agencies that fully understand the whole business, have the capability to map out its impact both on the consumer and the client organisation, and provide actionable insight. To be able to do this effectively, it is imperative that advertisers look at media as an investment, not a cost.

'When you have both sides in the room at the same time, it is far easier to have grown-up conversations'

Among the more practical suggestions is for agencies to invite clients in more regularly to help them understand the strategic process and iterative thinking from an early stage. Obvious stuff, perhaps; but, in practice, it’s not inherent within most media agencies that began life focused on trading. It’s something that ad agencies have been far better at over the years. Enyi Nwosu says he has drawn from his years at M&C Saatchi and CHI & Partners to adopt a more consultative, conversational approach with Mindshare’s global clients. For teams used to only presenting fully formed strategies, it requires a leap of faith.

Meanwhile, on the specific thorny issue of group aggregate trading deals eroding trust, ID Comms is now advising clients to ask "five simple questions" of their agencies: with which major media vendors do you operate agency deals and where do these have annual share commitments? Roughly how much of my media spend is involved in these agency/share deals? What benefits do I derive from these deals beyond your claim of cheaper pricing? Do your clients receive, collectively, 100 per cent of the benefit of the agency trading in this way? If we wanted to exclude ourselves from these volume deals, how would we do this and what would be the implications on price and quality?

On a separate note, many of you have been in reflective mood this week as Media Week celebrated its 30th anniversary. I’ve been inundated with tales of yesteryear and suggestions for what should be included in its first print edition for more than five years in April. The speed of change usually makes such nostalgia an indulgence, but I hope many faces past and present can attend our party at the end of April.