I have heard a lot of stories during my advertising career. When I did a review for a client a few years ago I remember a client telling me about a meeting they had with their agency in New York before they announced that they were doing a review. They had scheduled a dinner meeting with their agency to tell them they weren’t happy with their service and read them the riot act. The agency was expecting a total different outcome as they thought everything was tickety-boo. Obviously the client and the agency weren’t aligned. I don’t think anybody ordered desert that night.
I remember when I worked at agencies in the show where we regularly conducted yearly evaluations. To be clear that didn’t mean that the account went up for review, it meant that our performance got evaluated. I am not saying that it was my favorite thing to do but there were generally very good outcomes. The process provided some focus for the coming months. The most immediate outcome was some reinvigoration on both sides of the tale. In the end no agency is perfect at everything. No client is perfect at everything. Every person that works as a client or at an agency likes to know where they stand. It’s human nature.
Also client agency relationships are changing. Maybe there is not enough romance. Maybe there is not enough training. Many agency lament that relationships are moving from being partners to being seen as vendors. Certainly the Great Recession didn’t help. Relationships often followed budgets into hiatus.
It is pretty easy to find a template for an agency evaluation but the best reviews don’t come from a template in the New Normal. It is best to foster a dialogue that gets down to the heart of the matter. I can’t tell you how many clients I connect with who tell me they want to find a new job. Today clients and agencies are united in that they both have tough jobs. Having a clear understanding of the measure of mutual business and career success creates the best course of action.
An evaluation today should be collaborative for mutual success.
Here are some questions for agencies to ask. What are your career goals within the company? What politics are you facing? Who are your friends and foes at your company? Agencies should always also ask how can we help you more. Can we pitch you some new ideas every quarter and can you invite other people who will be judging the effectiveness of our efforts to those presentations?
Clients should ask what was the best idea that you showed me that I turned down this year? Clients should ask how do I help you and how do I obstruct you? Clients should be free to ask can I change some players on the business. Clients should also ask are you making enough money?
Then both parties should ask when are we going to do this again?
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