As ad professionals with both client side and longtime agency experience, we’ve decided to share some pointers on how to keep you aligned for superior communications.
1. Provide clear direction.
Studies show that a high percentage of problem projects start with inadequate briefings. A lack of candor may factor in, too. Are you spending enough time preparing information? Or, do you just wing it and hope they’ll “get it”? Don’t trust this all-important task to an inexperienced junior. You can’t expect a great outcome if you don’t start with thoughtful, well-organized input.
2. Make sure all responsible parties agree on the direction.
All too often, an agency receives direction from one group in the company only to find out later that others (often senior management) have something totally different in mind. Such a scenario not only wastes your valuable time and money, it dampens the spirits of those who’ve labored under misguided direction.
3. Talk openly and candidly about any concerns you may have.
Don’t sidestep confrontations just to avoid hurt feelings. Offer constructive criticism and give agency personnel adequate time to respond with a solution. Resolving differences with your current agency almost always delivers a better ROI than starting from scratch with a new one.
4. If you want a commitment from your agency, offer commitment in return.
If you hand out assignments to different agencies for every project, you can’t expect any one of them to offer you commitment in return. Agencies rarely make money on short-term relationships. So if you want your agency to care about your business, be sensitive to theirs. Include them as much as possible. If you’re simply looking for a project vendor, you may not need an agency at all. Consider freelance instead.
5. Show courage.
Want your agency to provide groundbreaking thinking? Then encourage them to experiment. Be willing to make an investment, however small, on an untried, but potentially lucrative idea that’s on strategy. You don’t have to bet the farm. But do look for ways to show you’re onboard with innovative thinking.
6. If you work with multiple agencies, be clear about who does what.
Just as you have a hierarchy within your own organization, you need to appoint an authority among your agencies. Enlist one agency to make integration their key priority, and then make sure the other agencies understand their own roles in the process. Agencies are hardwired to compete. So don’t expect them to just magically integrate and play nice. It’s not going to happen.
7. Streamline the approval process and provide honest feedback.
Ideally, your approval process should be quick and clear. Don’t wait until the third or fourth review to eliminate a so-so idea. Agencies would rather know upfront when something isn’t right, so they can start over. It’s kinder than sending them through multiple revisions, only to have the work die later. Narrowing approval to a limited group makes quick elimination easier to achieve.
8. Have frequent conversations with your agency.
Like any relationship, it’s important to communicate concerns with your agency. Give them the benefit of regular reviews. In our experience, it’s good for both sides. You may even be surprised at the constructive solutions such discussions can yield.
9. Make sure you choose the right agency in the first place.
Sending out a questionnaire or a request for credentials, capabilities and other information fosters one-way communication. If you want your new agency to understand your business goals, marketing objectives, strategies and other expectations, you should start with a dialogue. A two-way conversation helps build mutual respect and should save you time in your search process.