How to Be a Great Client to Your Ad Agency and Get More Than You Paid For

By Gary Leopold President & CEO, ISM | May 19, 2010

To consistently get great work from your ad agency you need to understand how to be a great client. It's not about giving in to your agency--rather it's about giving them the direction, feedback and opportunities to become one of your hotels most valued partners.

In my agency I'm fortunate to work with two people--Janet Eason my EVP and Chief Strategy Officer and Bob Minihan, my Executive Creative Director--both of whom have had long and distinguished careers in the advertising industry. We often sit down and discuss the client-agency dynamic and we've assembled a brief list of our collective wisdom to help you maximize your agency relationship and get more out of it than you ever imagined.

Start at the beginning. The most important ingredient for having a great relationship with your agency is to be certain that you've chosen the right agency to begin with. Their experience, style, knowledge, values, approach, skills, staff, commitment to your business and more should all be well suited to meeting your exact needs and fulfilling your expectations. All agencies are not created equal. Even if you follow the advice we prescribe and proclaim yourself to be a great client, there's no guarantee that you'll get inspiring work if you're tethered to a less than talented agency.

Your agency is trying their best to help you--they are not the enemy. All agencies want to do a great job and, if you've chosen yours wisely, should have the ability to help positively impact your business. Every agency values their reputation and they know that the better they make their client look the better they look. You hired them for their expertise and talents, give them the opportunity to share their skills with you and prove themselves worthy of your trust.

You want your agency to learn your business. Take a moment to learn theirs. It's reasonable for every client to expect their agency to pour themselves into your business and to learn as much as they can about your industry and your property. You expect them to be knowledgeable and insightful so they can become a more valued partner. So too, it would be valuable, if you took some time as a client to understand the agency and its business. How do they make money? How is their business doing and what can you do to help it grow? What is the creative process and how long do certain projects take? A little bit of knowledge can help fuel a whole lot of understanding.

"Great work" is like "great sex"--it means a million different things to a million different people. Work with your agency up front to discuss and manage expectations. Most agencies will adapt aspects of their processes and approach so it wraps around your requirements and style. By establishing your needs, wants and desires in the beginning you help create a picture of what success looks like, and how it will feel when you get there.

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