Aprais, the global client-agency relationship assessment service, launched its India operations in 2005. Since then they have garnered many big banners like Citibank, Sab Miller, Ogilvy, JWT under their portfolio. Many of their global partnerships are being supported out of India. With offices across North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, the company has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade. Jeremy Caplin, CEO, Aprais, spoke to exchange4media about the company’s journey so far, and what goes into building agency-client relationships. Excerpts:
Please share the idea behind Aprais.
Our mission is to continuously strengthen and improve relationships by bringing professional teams together in a transparent and pragmatic way. We believe in objectivity and fair play. We know that any evaluation process has to lead to action planning, so we constantly try to ensure that our clients – with our help – follow the right path to achieve excellence in what they do. The ‘white papers’ and articles that can be downloaded from this page reflect this thinking. We hope that you will find them interesting and informative. Our philosophy is that, as with most areas of life, successful business relationships can only start with mutual openness and trust. We work with partnerships.
How do you work with clients in order to make these partnerships work?
Clients are struggling with complex landscape of agencies. There are too many players now; creative, digital, PR, among others. For clients to maximise the value of money they spend on marketing communications they must first find out their own capabilities and shortcomings. At a bare minimum, clients need to employ a two-way evaluation process. Calibrating the data from this evaluation against large externally benchmarked datasets can highlight client strengths and deficiencies. Regular measurement will allow clients to track their progress against any highlighted actions that need to be taken.
And how do you work with agencies to streamline issues?
An ideal agency should meet the criteria of being functionally competent. Strong account management is pivotal link between clients and agencies. Strategy, planning and analysis and business behaviour is also crucial.
How does client performance relate to agency performance?
Aprais has shown that 'client of agency' scores and 'agency of client' scores correlate to over 99.99% of statistical confidence. Effectively, this is saying that the agency-client relationship is highly interdependent and that good clients result in good agencies (and conversely bad clients receive bad performance from their agencies).
What is the key to achieving a fruitful client-agency relationship?
Begin by accepting some fundamental tenets. A client-agency relationship must be a true partnership, moving as far away as possible from the 'master & servant' approach typical of customer/supplier set-ups. If the agency is not empowered to have a genuine feedback loop into the client, then it is unlikely that a cycle of continuous improvement can be created. The client will remain ignorant of its own shortcomings and the agency will find it difficult to accept an evaluation of its failures if it believes these are driven by client issues. As with any relationship, the conversation must be open in both directions and thus a two-way evaluation process, in which both parties assess the other, is essential.
To drive a shared sense of ownership and commitment to making the evaluation process work, there should also be a sharing of all costs and resources. This ensures both parties have 'skin in the game'. It also removes the sense that the process output belongs uniquely to one or other party; it belongs to both, as does the requirement to work together to fix things. The knowledge and data we have gathered proves statistically what we all know instinctively: agency team performance is highly dependent on marketing team performance. Every time a client team improves, it is more than 99 per cent likely that the agency team will improve too. And the reverse is also true. We need to think about what both agencies and marketing companies can do to achieve happier, more productive working lives. But to get to some workable solutions, we need to reflect on the context.