When it comes to our industry, I am a firm believer that great brands are an outcome of the strong relationship and jodis between an agency and a client. The brand is nothing but a barometer and reflection of the strength of this relationship.
A marketer must realise and accept that he is dependent on his agency partner to give face and life to his vision. An agency must realise and accept that it needs a great brief from a great client to be able to create great work.
But regrettably, often, this relationship extends from just one brief to another. Or, a campaign to the next.
True brands are built when the relationship extends well beyond briefs or campaigns. I take inspiration from David Ogilvy, who said that the true test of an agency is when the team knows more about the client and his business, than the client does. True brands are built when the agency is so immersed with the brand that it is as if the only brand they are working for. And when clients have and actually display immense faith in their agency.
Yes it is true that clients need and seek brand stewards and brand custodians from their agency partnerships. But taali do haath se bajthi hai... (you need two hands to clap).
Agencies need faith, trust and great briefs. But they also need to be fearless. In today's times when clients are promiscuous, always open to new relationships, how can an agency give their heart and soul to any one client!
And that's why I believe that when a client and agency wed, "till death do us part", it is this faith and trust that creates magic. Fear of loss has never created great work. But faith has.
Any relationship has its ups and downs, but knowing that it still is a relationship that can tide over ripples, gives wings to the work that emerges.
A few pointers that I believe can give both the partners an "and they lived happily thereafter" ending:
- partners, not a vendor relationship
- invest in the relationship
- understand the needs and expectations of each other
- choose your partner wisely, not hastily
- give consistency and continuity
- not how much time spent, but quality time
- give each other your best resources - Lord Krishna, and not merely his army - ie number of people working on the account
- celebrate successes, together
- understand and accept that brand is a key outcome, but business outcome is the real reason for being
The relationship is key, but always remember that khaali pet se badhiya kaam nahin nikaltha (an empty stomach cannot produce great work).
Don't feel shy to discuss commercials. Do ensure that the agency's remuneration is aligned to your KRAs, so that both are aligned to a common outcome. Having a client is not key, but having a remunerative client is key to a rewarding relationship.
Clients toh bahut milenge. And agencies too. But seek a saathi - sukh dukh ka saathi. Seek and search for a client or agency who best matches your values and vision. Spoil each other and pamper each other with attention and passion.
Because whether you are client or agency, remember, you are incomplete without the other. So it's not a partner you are seeking, but a true partner. And if you are fortunate to have found one, rest assured, it will reflect in the brand that you will co create.
As an industry we have many awards. Today I moot that we institute an award that recognises client-agency jodis. The secret sauce behind legendary brands. Let's identify and celebrate such jodis.
(The author is CMO - financial services at Aditya Birla Group)