Agency-Client Therapy: How to Build Stronger Partnerships

Nearly two-thirds of leading U.S. advertisers are planning creative agency reviews in the next year. Almost as many, 64%, will review media shops, and 61% are prepping to review digital agencies, according to a report from Advertiser Perceptions.

“There’s so much disruption already facing marketers, and so many are focused on doing the transformation they need for their own businesses,” said Michael Kassan, chairman-CEO of MediaLink, who runs sessions aimed at avoiding the upheaval that can come from a review.

Adding to the dissonance: the Association of National Advertisers’ K2 Report on media transparency, which Mr. Kassan said wound up raising more questions for marketers than answers. Also, the Justice Department investigation into holding companies for potentially shady production practices has some advertisers concerned.

The health checks and therapy sessions MediaLink runs as part of its brand optimization practice aim to help marketers figure out issues they’re having with agency partners by bringing the two sides together and asking core questions. “The truth lies somewhere in the middle,” said Lesley Klein, managing director at MediaLink, who added that the process is collaborative and surfaces processes or operations that may need to be updated within both the marketers and the agencies. Most of the time, clients retain their agencies at the end of the health check, said Ms. Klein.

“You don’t do this because you distrust your agency; you do it because you want to have a better relationship with your agency,” said Casey Burnett, managing director and founder of The Burnett Collective, who also runs these sessions for advertisers. “Clients and agencies are notoriously bad at communicating, so it helps to have an objective third party play a little bit of a mediator role,” he added.

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