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IndustrySpeak: Unraveling the secret of building long term agency-client relationships

IndustrySpeak: Unraveling the secret of building long term agency-client relationships

Author | Pallavi Goorha and Puneet Bedi Bahri | Thursday, Aug 21,2008 8:20 AM

IndustrySpeak: Unraveling the secret of building long term agency-client relationships

It’s a question that has intrigued agencies and clients alike – how do some clients develop long-term relationships with their ad agencies, whilst others change them frequently? Is there any formula or a set of rules they follow? What are the advantages and disadvantages of such continuing relationships? exchange4media speaks with some leading agencies to unravel the secret.

D Rajappa, President, Everest Brand Solutions, said, “Just as Parle leadership has a history of giving exceptional value to the consumer, Everest prides itself in putting the consumer at the centre of all its communications. For over 60 years, Parle and Everest have institutionalised their relationship to nurture Parle brands with an unflinching commitment. Together Parle and Everest leadership have developed a deep emotional connect simply because both organisations have stood by each other to make this relationship more vibrant with each passing year. With such commitment to the brand from both sides, it is only natural that the brand has amassed exceptionally vibrant brand equity. When the two partners understand each other so well and believe in the power of this relationship, the consumer connect grows exponentially. Both the brand and the relationship have stood the test of the time. Hypothetically, a longer term relationship could make the players complacent. Fortunately, for the industry the environment is so competitive that it does not let complacence set in.”

According to Ranjan Bargotra, President, Crayons Advertising, “In an era where USPs are extinct, it is the relationship that makes a difference. And it is not just in products or services, it works everywhere. It is valid for every business relationship, more so for advertising. Relationships work well, and in the ad industry you will find the best of brand case studies where client and agency have enjoyed a long relationship (Fevicol, Shoppers Stop, Amul). Having said this, I must add here that relationships work best when there is nothing taken for granted. Each partner has to value the other. If the agency gets complacent or the client takes the agency for granted, you can’t expect a long term relationship and the brand suffers. Typically, clients who treat advertising as a commodity, shift agency at the drop of a hat or commission! To me, healthy relationships always benefit, there is no question of disadvantages.”

Rohit Ohri, Managing Partner, JWT, said, “One of JWT’s biggest strengths in the Indian market is the relationship that it has with its biggest clients. Most of our top 10 clients have been with us for over two decades. PepsiCo, Hero Honda, Unilever, Ford, GSK, and ITC are clients who have been with us for the longest time. This stability of a client-agency relationship is what builds market-leading brands. The trust and faith that a client places in an agency is what creates an extended brand team. And that’s the multiplier that creates magic in the marketplace.”

Asheesh Sethi, President, Noshe Oceanic, pointed out, “A client will stick to the agency provided the agency is able to consistently perform year on year. A client is very demanding and the onus is on the agency to take care of its specific needs. With a long-term relationship, the agency and the client are able to work in sync to take the brand to its due position. The brand positioning and strategy over a long-period perspective, the media mix and the road-map is well understood and related to in a long agency-client relationship. Even the all-needed trust-factor builds in the necessary confidence for brand-benefit. As in the case of marriages, the agency and client build up that trust, confidence, and emotional and financial connect that is most important for a strong relationship. One has to work around that relationship with the same sincerity and integrity as one does in a marriage.”

Chandradeep Mitra, President, Mudra Max, noted, “The reasons for a client-agency relationship thriving, surviving, or breaking up are very similar to the reasons that a person-to-person relationship like a marriage succeeds or fails. They are mutual compatibility, shared liking and respect, understanding each other’s needs well, and a win-win equation in terms of meeting each others requirements. More often than not the quality of the core product is the quality of servicing and relationship management that causes client-agency relationships to continue or fall apart.”

According to Tarun Nigam, Executive Director, India –North, Starcom Mediawest Group, “The advantages are better understanding of brands, better understanding of perspectives from both sides. Starcom Mediawest Group believes in having business accountability for our clients from being a single media partner/planner to a business partner.”

Giving a client’s perspective, Sanjeev Mahajan, CEO, Hot Spot, said, “For a mid-sized organisation, it is interested in knowing how a brand would emerge over time. This requires investment from a time point of view, it requires a gestation period for ideas, go to market, observing idea and closing loop on improvement areas. It is very important for an organisation like ours to stick for a reasonable period of time to a particular agency and vice versa.”

Rajesh Gupta, Director, Harrisons Furnishing, felt that it was quite cumbersome to change agencies frequently, even though there were both advantages and disadvantages in doing so. According to him, “The advantage is that over a period of time, the agency understands the need and the product, and the relationship between the client and agency grows. At the same time, sticking to the same agency for a long period hampers the creativity as the work just keeps continuing in a routine and there is lack of fresh ideas.”

BB Taneja, Proprietor, Paul Garments, has a different view. He said, “I don’t see any advantage in changing the agency time and again as I feel the agency is the backbone of the glamour trade. The agency understands the consumers’ needs, the target audience and the product, and unless the performance is deteriorating, there is no need to shuffle agencies.”

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