Define Your Client Agency Charter & Build a Great Partnership

Define Your Client Agency Charter & Build a Great Partnership

For marketers to deliver terrific advertising, you generally have to rely on an agency or two.

Typically, this might include specialists in creativity, production, media planning and buying, earned media, and other experts in the business of creativity.

It’s critical for delivering effective marketing communications to get all these players working together as a cohesive unit, seamlessly integrated with your team and each other. Sounds simple, but it’s not.

How do you get your agencies to work well with your team and each other?

I was in New York last week working with a leading retailer and their world-class agencies. A key goal was to define precisely this: the ingredients of a successful working relationship.

An exercise we ran as part of this two-day workshop was to create a client agency charter. A document that defines the nature of how they will work together. My inspiration for the session was the Avis and DDB contract from 1963.

If you’ve studied advertising at all, you will have come across the famous ‘We Try Harder’ work that AVIS and DDB delivered in the early 60s. The platform was and still is a cornerstone of Avis’s communications.

It was built on top of a well-documented contract between the two partners, which clarified their expectations of each other. The contract is reported to have been written by Robert Townsend, then CEO of Avis and has just six clauses:

1. Avis will never know as much about advertising as DDB and DDB will never know as much about the rent-a-car business as Avis.

2. The purpose of the advertising is to persuade the frequent business renter to try Avis.

3. A serious attempt will be made to create advertising with five times the effectiveness of the competition’s advertising.

4. To this end, Avis will approve or disapprove, not try to improve ads which are submitted. Any changes suggested by Avis must be grounded on a material operating defect (a wrong uniform for example).

5. To this end, DDB will only submit for approval those ads which they truly as an agency recommend. They will not “see what Avis thinks of that one.”

6. Media selection should be the primary responsibility of DDB. However, DDB is expected to take the initiative to get guidance from Avis in weighting of markets or special situations, particularly in those areas where cold numbers do not indicate the real picture. Media judgments are open to discussion. The conviction should prevail. Compromise should be avoided. 

In our workshop, we explored this 6-point contract, and there was universal agreement that something similar would help. We set about mapping out the rules of the road for their working relationship.

Not so much a contract but more of a charter on which their relationship will work.

Only time will tell if this is a successful approach. What I can tell you is there was instant engagement with the idea from both client and agency-side marketers.

Could a Client Agency Charter work for your marketing organisation?

If you want to get the most from your brand and agency relationships, try an exercise like this.

Clarify your expectations for each other, define the rules of the road, and see if it helps you foster a fantastic working relationship on which to build a brand with your agency partners.

Image credit: Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash