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Agencies are craving better management from their clients, over and above the partnership and collaborative approach they valued 10 years ago, new data from Aprais shows.

The pressure of a fast-paced and increasingly competitive world has changed the definition of a good client, in the eyes of their agencies.

Whereas 10 years ago agencies wanted better partnership, collaboration and leadership, these concerns have now been joined or even bumped by a desire for better timing and process management, and better financial management.

To keep up and get the best from their agencies, client brands have a duty to shift their priorities. Client behaviour is important because there’s a direct and positive correlation between high-performing clients and high-performing agencies.

10 years on

Aprais, a leader in client-agency performance evaluations, compared data from 2010 with contemporaneous data from its bank of more than 22,000 client-agency evaluations across 92 countries to see how relationships have changed over the past 10 years.

Unsurprisingly, in a decade that has seen rapid technological, social and cultural change from the introduction of the first iPad to music and TV streaming, Netflix as a content creator and Amazon as more than just a bookshop, the characteristics of a good client-agency relationship have changed.

Ten years ago, Aprais published the definitive characteristics of a good client and a good agency, in association with the WFA. The original analysis identified the performance disciplines agencies use to determine client performance. They were:

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In 2010, agencies scored partnering and collaboration the most important characteristic of a good client, followed by leadership, then timing and process management, and approval in fourth place. Financial management was below briefing as the last most important concern.

What makes a good client
 
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But comparative data from 2020 shows that timing and process management is now the most important characteristic for clients, in the eyes of their agencies, followed by partnering and collaboration and then financial management.

What about agencies?

While the changes in the agency definition of a ‘good client’ are clear, the reverse is not so.

Naturally, the defining characteristics of a ‘good agency’ are quite different to those of a good client.

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Clients’ definitions of a good agency have not changed in the same way, over the same period of time. In 2010 clients valued account management, function, general management, strategy and planning and collaboration. Ten years later, the same characteristics are still valued in the same order of priority.

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Kim Walker, founder and chief executive officer of Aprais, said: “Our original analysis revealed that, to use an old adage, clients get the agencies they deserve. As clients are in the driving seat of the client-agency dynamic, it suggests better behaviour by clients leads to greater appreciation of the output from their agencies.”

Kim Walker is founder and chief executive officer of Aprias.