Mark Silveira at Ordinary Advertising reminisces about two clients who asked for, and got, great advertising. To help you understand how to get the advertising you think you deserve- he offers a list of 7 traits in a good client- but number 4 was worthy of mention here:

A Frank Appraisal at Ordinary Advertising
Neither of these clients believed the agency should be considered a “vendor” (more than a little demeaning) or a “partner” (utterly unrealistic), but rather as an “asset” of the client’s business to be taken care of in direct proportion to the return being generated from it.

I’ve seen hundreds of agency sites that talk about being a “partner” when in fact, the agency has nothing on the line- no risk, other than losing the business.

Considering your ad agency an “asset” fits much better - along with the understanding that the part of the balance sheet that accounts for “goodwill” and “brand value” comes in part from the client/agency relationship which should include an almost symbiotic relationship, an intertwining of DNA of the two organizations. Understanding a brand isn’t something that comes overnight or with a contract, it comes from insight gained over time.

In choosing an agency, look closely at what kind of agency you are retaining:

  • How long do people stay there?
  • Who owns the agency- and what is their personal stake (holding companies can be very cold bedfellows)?
  • How long do their client/agency relationships last?
  • Is there a passion for the craft, and your product in the agency?
  • What are the rewards for both sides if the relationship blossoms?
  • Are your expectations for advertising realistic?
  • Do you trust them as experts in the field?

In buying a piece of capital equipment- what do you look for?

  • How long it will be relevant to your processes?
  • Who makes it?
  • How do they treat their current customers?
  • Is it the best it can be for the money?
  • How does it pay off?
  • Will it do the job?
  • Is it the best solution?

See, your relationship with your agency is the same as that of your new CNC machine- and just like that CNC machine, it can only produce great work if there isn’t operator error- which brings us back to what Mark was talking about- and the idea of the relationship as an asset.