“G******T Marty!  You’re in the communications business and you’re the worst F*****G communicator in the world!”  

It was my first week at a new ad agency in Washington D.C. twenty years ago.  And the client, founder of one of the largest auto groups in the U.S., was justifiably irate.  The account head was botching communications with the client and creatives.  The work wasn’t getting done and the brand’s momentum was stalling.  The client, a hardnose former Marine, was “raising the account team’s temperature” as he liked to put it.  And it was working.  The account head was hot, embarrassed, and humiliated. But as you probably already surmised, the next campaign presentation was flawless.  

While the client’s outbursts worked short term, the tirades were a band aid masking an ongoing client/ad agency disconnect that could have been addressed through a more deliberate, methodical approach to managing the ad agency.  After all, you shouldn’t have to berate people to coax the best work out of them.  

Over the last thirty years, I’ve been involved in countless client/ad agency relationships across a broad range of account categories.  The most successful relationships flourished with planned, regular communication and a set agenda. 

Here are some tips to keep your agency client relationship productive and enjoyable: 

Clearly Defined Objectives

Tell your ad agency exactly what you want them to accomplish.  For example, “my law firm would like to generate twenty more case per month and increase case quality, i.e. ten more million dollar plus case per year.”  Laying out specifics will set expectations for them and provide a measuring stick.  The objectives will also inform marketing strategy.

Monthly Meetings

Set a regular meeting date for each month.  These work wonders.  Develop on ongoing agenda:  

  1. Number of cases last month
  2. Number of definitive injury cases
  3. Review creative rotation
  4. Website Traffic Stats
  5. Review SEM stats
  6. SEO Changes
  7. Competitive TV Spend Analysis
  8. TV Buy Posts, Preemptions
  9. New marketing ideas, creative

Creative Brief Reviews

Review your ad agency’s creative briefs before they go to the creative team.  As a young account executive, I thought this would be a nightmare but was pleasantly surprised.  The process brought the client and account management team much closer together.