Is strategy the key to improving agency-brand relationships?

Recent research indicates that fractured agency-brand relationships can be improved, with effort on both sides.

Prepared by Frontify in collaboration with Ad Age Studio 30 the white paper recommends agencies should provide their clients with a stronger approach to strategic planning. Agencies also need to listen to client needs and respond to the tactical gains clients expect. Brands on the other hand, should better communicate their expectations of their agency partners to help assure the relationship is a healthy, successful one.

Indeed, our research of more than 24,000 agency-brand relationships over the past 20+ years, also highlights the importance of ‘strategy, planning and insights’ in a brand’s assessment of agency performance.

But to me, the most important words to note from these findings are ‘listen‘ and ‘communicate‘. I’ll discuss these later.

The report provides some specific suggestions on how the agency-brand relationship can be improved;

  • Brands and agencies must find ways to break down the silos between branding and agency work, with open communications and a universal understanding of how to promote a company’s brand.
  • Agencies should rethink how they help the brands, by building a long-lasting relationship on expertise, base-building, maintenance and guidance. High on the agency wish list is creating new revenue streams with a greater emphasis on strategic planning, leadership and strengthening employee skill levels.
  • Brands need to improve in their own digital transformation, with better training and hiring. Again, agencies can go a long way toward helping by adding analysis and insights.
  • Agencies must be aware that, on average, they are falling short in the eyes of their clients. Knowing this—and knowing the specific areas of brand concern—can enable agencies to focus on internal growth and improvement.
  • Brands need to fine-tune their agency relationships, to make sure control and capabilities are well matched and shared.

Communication is vital

Earlier I highlighted the words listen and communicate. In any relationship, whether among individuals or teams, communication is vital. It allows the sharing of feelings, opinions and expectations and can pre-empt conflict through better understanding.

Analysis of our extensive database reveals reliable evidence that communication continues to be one of the most crucial ingredients to healthy agency-brand relationships.

agency-brand relationships
Source: Aprais database of 24,000+ evaluations.

The chart above shows that among the seven behaviours we monitor, communication has grown 6% from 77 in 2011 to 81 in 2021. It is the second highest scoring behaviour behind trust.

How to ensure open dialogue?

We believe the key to encourage open dialogue is by evaluating the health of the relationship on a regular basis. The mere act of monitoring the performance of both parties, identifying the early warning signs of potential decline and working together to improve them will stimulate important dialogue. 

Aprais is able to demonstrate that evaluations work. Delivering real tangible improvements in performance in the scores of both parties within the first 18 months.

agency-brand relationship evaluation
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