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The state of agency-client relationships in 2016

Agencies and clients disagree on organisational structure, but do think the relationship is improving

The agency-client relationship has always existed in a state of strain and 2016 is no different. The brand uses an agency because it doesn't feel it can deliver campaigns as effective in-house, and that can't help but generate a little bit of healthy resentment or envy. The agency has every incentive to convince the brand to engage in ever more costly marketing activities, and very little reason to tell them pull the plug on costly campaigns that won't deliver ROI. Both partners need each other, but have different goals. It's a recipe for dissatisfaction.

So it hardly comes as a surprise that latest SoDA & Forrester report on the state of the agency-client relationship, based on surveys conducted in Q1 2016, finds the client agency dynamic to be hitting a 'roadblock'. But when you get beyond the negative headlines and consider that the agency-client relationship will always be strained by definition, things aren't really too bad.

Half see an improvement in the client-agency relationship

When asked about whether they saw the client-agency relationship improving or not over half of respondents to SoDA's survey considered it to have improved, vs just 30% of people thinking it stood still or got worse. Sounds like fairly good news, although is rather a large drop on last year, when 70% felt it was improving.

client-agency relationship

Are clients set up for innovation?

Agencies and clients rate expertise in emerging trends as the 4th and 5th (respectively) most important thing they value in agency-client relationships. An agencies ability to deliver innovative new marketing campaigns depends not just on the quality of their processes and the abilities of their staff, but also on the capabilities of the client. SoDA asked C-suite execs and directors at both clients and agencies about whether they see their organisational structure and conducive to innovation, and the results make for some interesting reading.

Client's think their structure is working just fine...

Almost half of execs/directors of brands surveyed thought their organisational structure facilitates their ability to innovate, whilst less than a third felt it hinders it.

clients organisational structure

...But agencies disagree

A measly 12 % of marketing agencies thought that their client's organisational structure was helping them to innovate. Over half thought it hindered it. A fairly damning inditement of brand's organisational structures.

agencies organisational structure of clients perceptions

Clearly those working client side should have a think about exactly how their organisational structure helps with innovation, and possibly think about ways it could be improved. For more insights into the relationship between clients and agencies, you can take a look at the full report from SoDA. 

By Robert Allen

I was the Editor of Smart Insights between 2015-2017. I managed the blog and you will find blog articles on a range of subjects- Marketing Technology trends and latest tech developments are a regular focus, as well as exploring key marketing concepts. You can get in touch with me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. The new Editor is Carolanne Mangles.

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