Business-first, value-driven and the right casting: Generating trust and mutual respect

Intel's Teresa Herd and RedPeak's Susan Cantor offer insights on agency and client trust.

At the Campaign Breakfast briefing on December 4, 2018 much was discussed about the rise of on-site agencies, including the reasons for the growth of this in-house team, the consolidation of external agency resources and notably, the decision of Intel to refocus and downsize its in-house agency, Agency Inside.

Some of the most provocative comments came from Bob Duggan, Group Executive Vice President from the ANA and Marla Kaplowitz, CEO of the 4As. Bob’s point of view was that "trust" in agencies has never been lower and that "in-housing" of creative talent is a reaction to the lack of transparency that has characterized agency/client relationships for the last decade. Marla, not surprisingly, disagreed with these assertions, and talked about the huge adjustment that agencies have made in the face of increased scrutiny, and the creative environment, dynamic thinking and idea-led culture that is unique to the agency business. 

As the Chief Creative Officer of an in-house team and the CEO of an external branding agency we see merit in both viewpoints. But more personally, as head of Intel’s Agency Inside and CEO of RedPeak, one of Intel’s key agency partners, we have the practical experience to recognize what may not be working and what works really well.

For a creative company, working with an in-house agency can be fraught with issues.  Insecurity on both sides, in-fighting for the best work and general personality clashes can and do happen. But more often, in our experience, the opportunity to work with like-minded, creatively-driven people has elevated the experience and the work, and allowed us to support and grow the business.  Lack of trust and questionable transparency were replaced with honest and open dialogue and clear lines of communication. Dedication to craft, dynamic creativity and idea generation were shared in meetings and through "hot-desking" in each other’s offices. 

Yes, it’s true that Agency Inside, due to a business decision, will be reworked and downsized, but the notion that clients and agencies can’t work well together will continue to be redefined by our teams. The lesson learned here is that if in-house players and their agency partners truly care about the company and the company performance first and foremost, and these individuals share a passion for big ideas and breakthrough creative then, even as a business changes and transforms, success and true partnership can be achieved.

So, if you think "trust" is lacking in your agency/client relationship, you should reevaluate your partnership. Stop blaming it on a lack of trust and ask yourselves three important questions:

1)    What does the business need?

2)    What value do you bring?

3)    Do you have the right people to deliver the value that is expected?

If both parties align on the above responses, you will build the elusive trust both clients and agencies deserve.

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