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
For years, agencies complained of not being taken seriously enough by
clients. Small wonder, when the business was perceived as frivolous and
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
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.