Keep It Nimble

December 1, 2013

Experience-driven communications require new agency/client collaboration

By Craig Elimeliah

The ad agency/client relationship is both complex and fragile. It is a relationship based on mutual trust in which the agency must act responsibly on behalf of the brand, and a true agency will translate the brand’s values and offerings into creative, persuasive, and experience-driven communications. In order to do that in today’s multichannel world, agencies must act as the anti-corporation in the relationship.

Clients Supporting Agencies

Most clients want their agencies to mimic their corporate structure and practices — to speak the same language and support the bureaucracy that often cripples the organization. A beneficial shift would be for clients to embrace their agencies as vehicles of creative activity paid to go against the grain, turn over less obvious stones, and act as conduits for rapid exploration and execution.

After all, an agency can be only as agile as the client it serves. And it’s no secret that, today, agility is the most sought-after commodity for maintaining a competitive edge.

A good agency partner should be forcing its clients to address serious business challenges posed by the daily shifts in consumer behaviors that affect how they need to communicate in the marketplace. But agencies need not stop at simply creating and auditing communications in market. Clients should be encouraging their partners to design the entire brand experience in a way that mirrors how customers are inter-acting with one another and meets customer expectations about how they would like to be communicated to. Clients should be paying agencies to keep them nimble, culturally relevant, and able to easily articulate value across any channel.

Productive Partnership

Business requires friction to grow. It is a positive and necessary stressor in order for any brand to grow culturally and stay relevant. Unfortunately, in many cases work suffers because there is a breakdown where the agency culture and the client culture meet. New techniques for ideation, co-creation, brand building, and exploration are on the rise. The “what” has changed and will always change, but equal focus must be placed on the “how.” How do we mine great ideas? How do we execute flawlessly? How do we stay relevant in a market that is blazing down the fastest cultural rail ever?

An active and nimble agency/client working relationship is critical, but rarely mapped out at the onset of an agency’s winning an account. It is up to the agency, not the client, to frame this conversation in a way that gives the collaboration its due respect and shows the client the value in investing the time and personnel needed to maintain an agile partnership.

Good agencies add value not only by redefining how best to communicate a brand, but also by taking a thoughtful approach to communicating internally. Every contract, brief, creative output, and planning document should reflect a dedication on both the client side and the agency side to encouraging idea generation, creating great work, and finding ways to improve operations and processes.

Innovation and creativity must not only be centered around the communication methods and products we create for our clients, but must also be deeply rooted in the way we formulate our working relationships. The old cycles of design review, testing, collective feedback, and revisions simply don’t hold up at the pace in which we create communications today.

Smaller companies are on the rise by proving the old model wrong. They are creating products, channels, and platforms that — in addition to outperforming the kinds of communications work that agencies once held the key to — are rewriting the way it’s done and reframing the relationships they have with business partners, clients, and even end users.

The “what” and the “how” have become equally important in forming successful agency/client relationships. Agencies were once paid for the magic — for that secret sauce that only they stirred to spice up creative campaigns. In today’s transparent and collaborative economy, this outmoded notion no longer works as a foundation for relationships in which communication must be real, in real time.

All stakeholders must make sure that agencies and clients are in lockstep. If anyone steps out of line, we can surely rely on our customers and social media to create a stir that will either force that synchronicity back into place or destroy the reputation of the brand, leaving a gaping hole in the market for another more harmonious brand and agency partner to step in and act accordingly.

Craig Elimeliah is vice president and director of creative technology at RAPP.


"Keep It Nimble." Craig Elimeliah, Vice President and Director of Creative Technology at RAPP. ANA Magazine Spotlight. December 2013.

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