Why Agency Egos Have Become A Dirty Word

Why Agency Egos Have Become A Dirty Word

In this guest post, Dan Hojnik (main photo), head of strategy and planning at Involved Media, argues that with a rise in in-housing, it could be time traditional agencies dispensed with the ego before any more damage is done…

Let’s face it, media agencies have not always been highly transparent with their clients in the past. Between the opaque renumeration models, programmatic media “fees” and fixed price contracts, many companies have felt betrayed by their legacy agency partners. Some clients also have a lot to answer for when it comes to the lack of transparency, but regardless of that fact, most people do not appreciate deceit.

As the communications ecosystem continues to fragment, clients and their agency partners need to ensure they have more honest and transparent relationships. Recent research from the In-House Agency Council (IHAC) and Kantar has revealed that 67 per cent of Australian marketers are working with an in-house agency. Some companies want to retain control because, to be frank, they have been deceived by some agencies and their shady renumeration structures for decades. Re-building that trust just does not happen overnight.

The path to re-building trust: less bullshit, more authenticity

Clients are now more aware of agency bullshit, which means agency authenticity is more important than ever. To rebuild trust, agencies need to abandon their egos. We must challenge ourselves to broaden our scope of services beyond those of a “classic media agency” and expand our capabilities to become true communications strategists and consultants.

A successful communications strategy must work across the complete communications ecosystem – paid, owned and earned media – regardless of the agency’s buying scope and where it makes the most money. But some agencies continue to deliver recommendations that are weighted heavily to what is in their scope and largely ignore what is not. This “ego” driven planning has no place in the brand-agency relationships of today

To deliver what is right for the brand versus what is right for the agency, media strategists and buyers must interpret, develop strategies and manage data across category, consumer, media and performance from multiple sources. They must always ensure that each data stream yields the insights required to drive the client’s brand KPIs forward, and build pillars of support to balance short-term acquisition with long-term brand growth.

It is a complex and fascinating process. New research, data and insights emerge daily, challenging what was true yesterday and constantly influencing the process of brand growth.  This constant changes does require multiple specialists and requires agencies to be nimble and responsive across all disciplines, whether they are under one roof or not.

Embracing ego-less partnerships

To become truly ego-less, agencies need to recognise that tying together all the specialist elements to drive a brand’s growth and bring to life a brand campaign requires partnerships and open communications that move across all the inevitable silos within business structures.

In bringing this authenticity to the table with our client partners, we stick to three core pillars:

  1. Deliver true partnership value:

Value beyond price has been underutilised and underappreciated by client partners. Putting client challenges at the heart of the relationship and creating safe spaces for collaboration with the right expertise in the room (or on the screen) should not be undervalued. Consider running co-creation workshops to define briefs together or workshop style pitches to sense check both capability and – just as importantly – compatibility.

  1. Strive to balance efficiency and effectiveness:

Balancing short-term needs with long-term ambitions remains the holy grail of all marketing activity. Ego-less agency partnerships mean delivering the work in the right way to the right people versus doing what may make an agency famous. The work must be about the brand delivering what it needs to grow, not what makes the agency looks good. It also means challenging the status quo and looking beyond current capabilities by building in the now, testing the new and striving for the next.

  1. Do so with transparent accountability:

Shared success commercial agreements clearly demonstrate commitment beyond the agency team organisational chart and agency commissions. It demonstrates your willingness to succeed by making your partners succeed. Encouraging some skin in the game is a great way to keep an agency honest and delivering the performance the client needs to hit its business and brand ambitions. Additionally, consider encouraging shared reporting resources and stay away from black box solutions. It saves time and keeps all parties honest. 

If brands win, agencies win

Trustworthy advice and implementation come from a collaborative approach which combines leadership and vision, experience, technology and open-mindedness. Driving successful brand growth demands both consistency and inventiveness, which can only be delivered when good client-agency partnerships are in place and ego is parked.

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Dan Hojnik Involved Media

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