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Want more creativity from your ad agency?

Five observations on getting the most out of the people you depend on for breakthrough marketing communications, or what 10 years on the client side and 35 years on the agency side has taught me. Among other things.

Give your agency team regular “seats at the table.”

Give your agency team regular “seats at the table.”

  1. Creativity isn’t a commodity. And you won’t get it out of your agency team by saying, “This project is really important…” like you expect someone will hit F7 on his or her keyboard and good things will happen. Creativity is an art, and great art takes time. Give your agency team the time to give you their best.
  2. It’s really true: Jobs have three parts — speed, cost and quality. As a client, you get any two of those, but your agency deserves the third. Think about it.
  3. Rate your agency from the perspective of value, not cost. Over the long run, you get what you pay for. One great idea for a campaign can earn your company way more than the difference between a good agency and the boss’s nephew who’s “darned creative and a whiz on the computer.”
  4. Enable your agency to have skin in the game. This can happen two ways. In exchange for lower media commission or account management fees, figure out a revenue-sharing incentive arrangement. If an ad campaign, for example, is a big hit and increases sales and profits, share some of it with the agency. This is happening more and more in media price negotiations. Another way is to give your agency team regular “seats at the table.” Not just across from you, but with your boss and the president or the EVP. The honchos. The wheels. When the agency pitched you, all those big shots were there. The agency was at the top of its game and there was electricity in the air. Nobody wants to underwhelm the president. Treat your agency as a partner and the spark will jump more often. See No. 5 below.
  5. Never speak of your agency as a “vendor.” Even more important, never think of it as a vendor. The guy who brings in the big jugs of water for the cooler is a vendor. Nothing is more relationship-harming than this seemingly innocuous reference by a client of their agency team. You expect and pay for brilliance from your agency; not so the water dude. See No. 1 above, one more time.

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