Clients are constantly putting agencies to the test. Whether it's the small (will the chief executive get back to me immediately?) or the big (am I getting an impressive ROI? Is my agency behaving like an industry leader in terms of innovation?).
But the really big test comes when the UK client is dazzled by its agency and wouldn’t want to get into bed with any other partner, yet the global client wants to review and consolidate its international business to the detriment of the UK relationship (if this was a plotline in Hollyoaks, it would be rather like a girlfriend’s parents emigrating to Australia and dragging her with them by her Primark wedges. Cue dramatic heartbreak).
This is, in many ways, a monstrous test because the agency is more or less rendered impotent. It becomes a game that is played out among the clients, which becomes political if the global client is tasked with enforcing procurement-led efficiencies and is reluctant to sign off a fragmented media plan.
As a result, it is really quite spectacular when a European review results in the media being funnelled into one network across the continent, but the UK business is retained by a competitor network. Such is the case with Mondelez International (previously Kraft Foods), which has held on to its relationship with PHD in the UK and Ireland, despite awarding Aegis with 14 markets in Western Europe. When consolidation is all the rage, this says a lot about what the Mondelez client thinks about PHD.
But it smarts when, despite its strength, the UK relationship is broken as part of a wider review, as was seemingly the case with Carat last month. The agency lost its Johnson & Johnson EMEA account to Group M and UM, despite the UK shop delivering award-winning work.
As well as creating tiptop work, we all know that another way to nurture strong, long-lasting client relationships is to help educate them in media developments in a way that isn’t patronising. Mindshare managed this superbly at its Huddle event this month. On one day, the agency hosted 100
sessions or "huddles", which were led by media owners, connected TV experts, mobile start-ups, technology leaders, content champions and many more.
There was a LinkedIn Profile Makeover Booth, crowdsourced animation, a huddle on storytelling led by The Guardian, in which we heard from the journalist Elizabeth Day on how the story of the Arab Spring became distorted, O2 "masseuse angels", rickshaws taking visitors to Virgin’s offices to look at Tivo, a live smartphone-controlled game called 28 Huddles Later, a real-life Facebook wall etc.
Clients and agency staff went to the sessions together and learnt together. What a great way to share and inspire.
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