Ultimate agency-client relationship dealbreakers

Industry folk share where they draw the line this Valentine's Day.

Love hurts.

And sometimes, you just have to know when to throw in the towel, swallow that heartache and decide who gets to keep the Vitamix . It’s okay. We feel your pain.  

Campaign US asked agencies and brands to share their ultimate relationship dealbreakers. Some also offered the secret to a happily-ever-after.

Tissues at the ready.


Melissa Hobley, OKCupid CMO

Dealbreaker: Not asking the right questions (true in actual dating as well).

Dealmaker: Getting the person we're trying to talk to (also true in dating).

Chris Lane, global head of brand and digital at Fiverr

Dealbreaker: Agency and client relationships are no different from romantic relationships (in most ways) -- it's all about honesty, trust, communication and a clear understanding that that there will be bumps in the road.

But most importantly, like any great relationship, getting too comfortable will cause the relationship to go real quiet, real quick. The best relationships are constantly evolving, with a push to experience new things and step outside of one’s comfort zone.

Libby Brockhoff, co-founder and creative director at Odysseus Arms

Dealbreaker: Any client that refuses a second round (drinks, not revisions). We usually just say, "listen, please understand it's you, not us."

Scott Nelson, VP of marketing, Panera

Dealbreaker: If I can’t share a Double Bread Bowl with them (Anomaly), then it’s not a good relationship.

Nico Van Erum, managing partner at Sid Lee

Dealbreaker: When a client wants to get married, but doesn't want to get his/her hands dirty in the kitchen.

Jean Freeman, principal and CEO at Zambezi

Dealbreaker: When a client has champagne taste on a beer budget.

Jessica Reznick, president, We’re Magnetic

Dealbreaker: If a client doesn’t remember to occasionally say "thank you" or show gratitude — especially when everyone is working so hard — then they're likely not a partner we want to invest in.

Tammy Soares, head of west region, north America, Accenture Interactive

Dealbreaker: As soon as my client starts to treat me like an agency, I know it’s over.

Matthew Curry, BSSP CCO

Dealbreaker: When they keep demanding more and more caviar but will only pay for a can of spam.

Hallie Johnston, chief client advice and management officer at Initiative

Dealbreaker: If we had a big C-level meeting and I had something in my teeth and my client let me go through the whole presentation without telling me.

Dealmaker: A client who is willing to take risks and big bets. I once had a client say to me after we presented our media plan, "my stomach hurt after seeing the ideas...it makes me both nervous and excited." Now that’s a relationship I want to be in for the long haul.

Jordan Fox, head of Laundry Service and Cycle

Dealbreaker: If there’s no brief, then our relationship will be.

Dealmaker: When a brand says "we want you to challenge us" and they really, really mean it. Those are the magic words that turn clients into long-term partners.

Jason Sperling, RPA CCO

Dealbreaker: I would be heartbroken if my Honda client started seeing another agency, or started to parse out the work to separate agencies, in an effort to push us harder. The great thing about what we have now is our client understands the passion, investment and hard work we put in on every assignment, so they don’t have to create jump balls or conflict to keep us motivated. I wouldn’t want that to change.

Dealmaker: We’ve got a pretty great relationship with our Honda client. I guess what might make me love her more would be if, in her adoration for the RPA team, she shared our name with some of her awesome CMO friends. Sharing is caring!

Leeann Leahy, VIA CEO

Dealbreaker: It's heartbreak when you discover the agency actually cares more about the brand than the client does.

Dealmaker: You know it is going to be a long and strong marriage when the client comes to propose (aka award you the business) in person and in front of the entire agency.

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