Can This Client-Agency Marriage Be Saved? - Joanne Davis

Inspiration And Insights
4 min readApr 20


Published by the ANA - Four Successful Ideas to Repair Your Relationship

Relationship on the Rocks?

At some point as a client, you may find you are not getting the quality or type of work you need from your agency. Or maybe your needs are evolving and changing. So, if that’s the case, it’s time to go into a full-on agency review, right?

Hold on, not so fast!

While tempting, especially when you’ve had repeated disappointments, agency reviews are not always the automatic answer when a client needs changes in their agency service.

Whether an agency must improve its performance, bring a different set of capabilities, new people, more senior people, or a new remuneration approach, going into a full-fledged review shouldn’t necessarily be the client’s first port of call.

Anyone that has lived it knows that reviews are time intensive and costly when factoring in the entire process that includes the RFI, RFP, compensation, MSA, transition plans, onboarding, and the general ramp-up period for the new agency.

So, before you “head to agency divorce court,” instead consider repairing your relationship with the current agency or holding company and avoid the burdens brought by a full review.

Ways To Repair Your Agency Relationship


By conducting a “pre-review” with the current agency, clients can identify precise areas of concern and success criteria that must be met for the agency to retain the account. Regular check-ins should be held to monitor progress and provide feedback in real-time over a precise time period; a final assessment will reveal if the agency made the required improvements. A thoughtful and deliberate process works quite often here, much to the relief of both the client and the agency.

Review of One

Another approach is to hold a “review of one” that is a confined, closed review of just the current agency or its holding company (if not an independent). The client will provide an RFP to the singular agency or holding company, essentially conducting a “mini-review” that typically moves much quicker than an open review, and often, brings the right targeted solution for the client.

Examples of Success

Here are four examples of success when a full review was averted:

1. New Model

  • Issue: A client needed to bring a more digital-first and agile approach.
  • Solution: Rather than hold an open review, the incumbent agency’s holding company was asked to bring a total solution that could meet the client’s needs with greater agility.
  • Result: The holding company quickly delivered a new talent-first model allowing the client to get work faster, with minimal transition complexity; years later, the model remains flexible to meet evolving needs.

2. Sibling Agency Review

  • Issue: A client wanted to review the integrated agency (creative and media) as there were concerns specifically about the media group’s performance.
  • Solution: The review was recast to a “review of one” with the creative agency bringing one of their sibling media specialist agencies.
  • Result: The client found the specialist media agency well-qualified and hired them, averting a full and costly review and retaining creative continuity.

3. Leadership Change

  • Issue: A client became concerned when a key leader with deep institutional knowledge left the account and the successor was unable to bring the right leadership.
  • Solution: Rather than have a review, the agency’s executive leadership was tapped to identify the right talent to take on and elevate the role.
  • Result: The client was pleased with the new account lead and a review was averted, with no interruption to the work.

4. Remuneration

  • Issue: Procurement sought to have their agencies on the same pricing basis and a Tier Two agency’s rates were higher than all the other agencies.
  • Solution: Reorganized the work and gave the Tier Two agency more Tier One work in exchange for a financial benefit to bring rates in line with others.
  • Result: Agency agreed to a slight fee reduction bringing more competitive pricing while delivering strong Tier One agency work as well.

So, the next time you think about pursuing a review, step back, take a deep breath, and consider first if you can repair your existing relationship and save it instead.

Sometimes the solutions are closer in reach than you might think, leaving you more time, money, and energy to create amazing work.

Caveat: If you’ve tried these ideas, and an open review is in your future, first look in the mirror and ask yourself if you have really done all you could to repair your relationship.

Read the original article here.

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