Leading agency relationships is not an easy task and something we continually work to make better. The biggest advice I give when asked about it is don’t be an asshole client. It’s pretty straight forward when you think about the concept of treating an agency partner how you’d want to be treated. True, you are paying for their services and expectations are high, however there are plenty of inputs and outputs to manage to get the most out of the investment. A couple of suggestions:
1. Look in the mirror. As easy as it is to call out an agency partner and make them the target for attacks, don’t forget to look in the mirror. There is something to be said for garbage in, garbage out. Make sure you’re process, briefs, research practices, etc. are in order as a complement to what the agency is bringing to the mix.
2. Write it out. Literally. Put on paper the expectations you have when looking to the agency partnership, especially after leading a review. It may not be a formal part of the contract but it should be formally known. This should also be supported by and drive how evaluations of the partnership go. Call out your working style around things like process, documentation, risk, comm’s, etc.
3. Candor. Candor is defined as “the quality of being open and honest in expression”. It’s so basic but so incredibly important. Creatives can be challenging, however in most cases the issues are with a lack of communication and more importantly a lack of dialogue. Dialogue is so important to get issues out, address them and not hold grudges as decisions are made.
Ultimately, by being a good client it helps when things don’t go well and stressful situations like tight deadlines or pivots in strategy come into play. If the relationship is built on trust and transparency from jumpstreet, that’s fantastic. However, its not just limited to the start of a partnership. If things get rocky, those are times where the three points above can be even more impactful. Suck it up, be a leader and head first into the hard spots of the relationship and commit to making it right. When it works, those times can be even more impactful.
With the Big Game finishing up this weekend and the annual blitz of brands jockeying for consumer’s hearts and minds, it’s worth taking a look at one of my favorite terms, WAGAS. Its a filter I use when evaluating content, creative, etc. that stands for Would Anyone Give A Shit. Somewhat crass but it’s needed to be a no-nonsense filter on if what you’re working on will resonate. WAGAS is the filter that ties together areas including:
- the Hook = WAGAS starts strong and typically has something in the immediate moments to grab a consumers attention. That initial grab is important, however if it doesn’t deliver after the hook is set the effects can be really bad. This is where dogsploitation, e.g. cute lab puppies and horses or Kate Upton can get immediate attention but they need a payoff.
- Value Exchange + Social Currency = Is there a fair exchange in the consumer’s time or mindshare and what the brand is delivering. This could be done across a variety of measures, however one of the most popular is social currency. That is, something delivered from the brand that enhances the consumer’s role in their network(s). It could be a reference that supports conversation, connection, identity, advocacy, etc. From the ads this weekend, it could be a funny reference like the polar bear in the sombrero or a great line from the Dodge commercial, e.g. “Don’t Bitch”. WAGAS works great when that value exchange happens and a consumers gets something they can take with them for their time spent with the brand.
- Investment = As part of the value exchange, if its a worthwhile transaction there should be an investment the consumer takes on, in many cases as a call-to-action. Could be as simple as a hashtag, link, sharing, etc. This is a best-case scenario as the consumer is doing something on behalf of the brand. A filter used frequently is “why would they care, why would they share” which takes the hint from WAGAS-worthy content and connects it to the investment of an action on behalf of the brand. This is the difference in consumer tweets “powering a car” in a race vs. just “who we think will win” with little payoff.
WAGAS isn’t about being “cool”, WAGAS is about being remarkable, that is someone would want to make a remark about it. It’s not always easy to achieve WAGAS but worth pursuing.
One of the most frustrating and unfortunately common things in business is when good people follow bad process. In the ideal state, process is established to deliver repeatable success. Process can often be looked at in waterfall terms, meaning step 1, then step 2, options reviewed and step 3, etc. Looking at today’s business environment where change is constant, process should be looked at in a more agile-way. That is, finding opportunities to review process and ensure its efficient more frequently. It’s hard, especially for established businesses where process has meant continued success over an extended period of time. Even with success, innovate or die. There’s no need to get complacent, challenge your processes. Stress test them often and don’t take them for granted. Processes are only as good as the means to ensure they’re up-to-date.
Friends don’t let friends follow bad process.