Love & Marriage: The tale of Agency-Client relationships

January 8th, 2016

Whether you’re a PR, Advertising, Content, Social Media , Digital or Creative Agency – you need clients & you’re gonna have clients (if you’re good) problem is – why is there an assumed tension between client & agency? Why is it always a ‘rare find’ whenever a healthy relationship exists? Since when did relationships become comparable to clothing found at vintage stores? 

“From Mad Men to Sad Men”, a report released by the Hall & Partners in collaboration with the IPA Client Relationship Group, points to the issue of there being underlying negative tensions between client & agency. Some of the major points of concern include everything from the client feeling misunderstood by the agency, the opinion that the creative & advertising industry is full of nepotism, to agencies feeling as though they’re constantly chasing the bottom line and have no room for creativity.

We think its possible for agencies to have healthy relationships with all their clients, this ‘rare find’ can easily become the norm with the right perspective. 

The Style Department is the sister company to a 16-year old company (The PR Department) and we’ve recognized that the key to longevity in this business is relationships. The common saying “it’s who you know” stands true in many industries.



1. You can’t be everything to everyone, find your lane & run hard:
In the creative agency space, companies tend to give the opinion that they either have a wide variety of clients or they’re able to take on a wide variety of clients. The truth is, whether or not you identify yourself as a niche agency – you’re most likely going to develop a culture & reputation for a particular quality & style of work. There’s nothing wrong with that! It gives you identity, flair & people can respect you for your work. Once the results are there, there’s nothing for you to prove. So keep milking the cow you’ve been given, master that space until you know it like the back of your hand & then move on to the next cow!

2. ‘Get in their shoes’. Understand that clients need it quick & fast:
Unfortunately creativity has to be rushed, when working with marketing directors & communications directors – the last thing on their mind is design & ideation. While creative & advertising agencies are often full of talented creative people – we have to recognized & understand the world of who we’re working with and for managers they are continuously reporting to a CFO to prove their worth. This means we need to focus on time-efficient delivery. At first, it may be difficult to conduct work at a speedy pace, but it actually challenges your creativity to reap results under pressure. Sometimes the best ideas come within 48 hours (this is why Hackathons work!)  

3. Be honest & offer value:
As agencies it’s often tempting to think big picture & not have enough time or resources to deliver- we’re left charming our way out of a bad situation. With that said, always aim to offer value to your client & stay honest throughout the relationship. Let them know how you’re doing, or give your opinion on how the budget is being spent. They already signed with you& clearly they chose you for a reason. Show them that this reason is because you want to deliver the best value. You don’t want to be that agency who’s constantly asking for more money without being able to prove why it’s valuable for them to spend with you.

We can’t stress this enough, staying in touch with a client is more helpful than you think. Don’t think of your client as the ‘Big Brother’ watching over your shoulder but consider them a colleague. Think of your brand as a passion project that you’re both hoping will become something bigger than what it already is. Taking a collaborative approach breaks down the invisible barriers & tensions that may co-exist between a client & agency – often times these barriers are unknowingly built up by both parties. Furthermore keeping them updated, develops trust between you. Just keep them posted, they’ll appreciate it 🙂 

Bottom-line is; although this is a business relationship – it’s still a relationship, so treat it like one. Watch it blossom.