Have the demands of client-agency relationships changed?

We compared data from 2010 with contemporaneous data from our bank of more than 22,000 client-agency evaluations across 92 countries to uncover the changing nature of client-agency relationships over the past 10 years.

In a decade which has seen rapid, fundamental change in so many aspects of business, our analysis revealed surprisingly little change in the characteristics of good agencies but significant shifts in agencies’ definitions of a ‘good client’.

Ten years ago, Aprais published the definitive characteristics of a good client and a good agency, in association with the WFA (World Federation of Advertisers). The original analysis identified the performance disciplines agencies use to determine client performance. They were:

APPROVAL Good, clear and definitive approval process
BRIEFING Written briefs, that are clear and comprehensive
LEADERSHIP Motivating the team toward a common goal
PARTNERING & COLLABORATION Encouraging open sharing within and among agency partners
TIMING & PROCESS MANAGEMENT Well planned activities and reasonable deadlines
FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Financially empathetic to the agency in terms of scope and payment


What makes a good client?

In 2010, agencies identified Partnering and Collaboration as the highest scoring characteristic of a good client, followed by Leadership, then Timing and Process Management. Briefing and Approval disciplines scored lower but Financial Management was seen as the key development opportunity.

Changing demands teams
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Comparative data from 2020 shows that, in the eyes of their agencies, clients have got better at Timing and Process Management.  It is now the highest scoring discipline followed by Partnering and Collaboration, and Financial Management scores have improved significantly.

What about agencies?

While the agency definition of ‘a good client’ is clear, the reverse is not so. Of course, the defining characteristics of a ‘good agency’ are quite different to those of a ‘good client’;

ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT Represent the client to the agency with honesty and courage
FUNCTIONAL Deliver excellence on its functional skill whether digital, creative or media
GENERAL MANAGEMENT Sufficient and competent resourcing and overall management
STRATEGY, PLANNING & ANALYSIS Insights and value-add to help inform better solutions
COLLABORATION Encouraging open sharing with client and among other agency partners
FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Financially efficient, accurate and transparent


Marketers’ definition of a ‘good agency’ have not changed over time. In 2010 clients scored top agencies highest in Account Management, followed by Functional, General Management, Strategy and Planning, and Collaboration. Ten years later, the good agencies’ characteristics are still in the same order.

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Clients in the driving seat

The pressure of a fast-paced and increasingly competitive world has changed the definition of a good client, in the eyes of their agencies.

As clients are often in the driving seat of the client-agency dynamic it is critical they evaluate their own performance to optimise their input into this symbiotic relationship.

Agencies are now recognising improved management from their clients, whilst identifying opportunities for further improvements in Briefing and Approval.

Watch our short explanatory video here: