Client – Agency Relationships: Strengthening the Ties that Bind

  • Categories:


  • Date:

    February 11, 2015

Client – Agency Relationships: Strengthening the Ties that Bind


After 25 years on the client side, the past 10 in marketing leadership positions at PPG Architectural Coatings/AkzoNobel Paints, I recently joined the team at Wray Ward as vice president, director of client engagement.

A topic that is routinely discussed, even more so during the process of moving from client-side to agency-side, is the oft-misunderstood view from the other side of the fence.

You know the old saying about walking a mile in my shoes? Well, I've walked hundreds of miles as a client, and I plan to use that experience everyday in my new role.

During one of my recent trips from my home in Cleveland to my new home in Charlotte, I read an article in Advertising Age about client – agency relationships. The article was presented in the form of New Year's resolutions, written by an agency CEO for a brand CMO and vice versa.

It was a great read for a guy in my current position.

Advice for Agencies

  • Know your client's business deeply and be a good partner; that includes being proactive when you see opportunities.
  • Be an effective communicator.
  • Know your core competency as an agency.
  • Always give your best effort.

The agencies that provided the most value to me as a client were truly extensions of my marketing team. These agencies knew our business well enough to ask intelligent questions and provide sound advice. They knew their strengths and used them to deepen our relationship without trying to convince me they did certain things well if they weren't core competencies. They were also brave enough – and cared enough – to speak up when they saw something they believed would hurt our brand or our business.

These are all values I plan to bring to my client relationships at Wray Ward.

Advice for Clients

  • Be willing to meaningfully invest in innovation, your business and the relationship with your agency partners.
  • Treat the agency with respect, and communicate with clarity and transparency.
  • Be thoughtful; avoid chasing the next "shiny object."
  • Demand accountability and measurement.
  • Make sure you are in relevant places and spaces. Be where your customers are, and provide the information or product they're seeking.

In my experience as a client, sticking by these principles as closely as possible was paramount to getting the best work and forming the strongest relationships with my agency partners.

By trusting and inspiring my agency team, I received great work, because the people working on the business cared about our mutual success.

If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to have an open conversation with your agency partners about your relationship and how you can best serve one another. They will be excited to talk with you, and you will lay a solid foundation for doing great work together.

As I learned being a client, the best work happens when we worry less about "client side" and "agency side" and accomplish goals and celebrate successes together on the same team.

Explore more articles from Wray Ward.