Recently presented to a group of ANA (American National Advertiser) members in Los Angeles on the topic of why agency-client relationships fail.

The conversation centered on two areas:

  1. Understanding the psyche of the agency and agency executive.  The more marketers can know and understand about what makes agency folks and their agencies tick, the more likely a better understanding will lead to more trust and better output.
  2. What marketers can do as owners of these relationships to make them stronger and more sustainable.

I’ll be hosting a webinar on Friday July 19 (at noon EST) during which I’ll present the piece I shared with the ANA group.  Invites for the webinar to follow.

In my studies of the reasons for successes and failures in agency-client relationships, I’ve come across what I believe is theory that can serve as the underpinning for all activities within this space:

Self-Determination Theorymarriage

The Self-Determination Theory suggests that success in relationships is driven by the ability of both parties in the relationship to:

Make choices/have choices available

Which when available, creates a sense of Competence

Which when not present, can cause Procrastination

Which can then lead to a sense of Fear

Which breaks down relationships and suppresses productivity

In its most simplest terms, the more you as marketers can provide your agency with the ability to choose and own part of the process, the more competent they’ll feel and they more productive they’ll be.

Obviously it’s a bit of a two way street where the agency has to want to take ownership and has to be capable of making decisions based off of their ability to make choices.

But it’s within the power of the marketer to set the tone (from the beginning) that allows the agency to operate confidently and competently in a relationship.

The more this sense of choosing and competence can be fostered, the more likely a relationship is to be long-lasting and highly productive.

More to come in upcoming posts on other relationship building topics like:

Common agency myths

Things marketers can do to improve agency-client relationships

The three eras of advertising and how they have impacted agency-client relationships