Client and Agency Are Not ‘Us’ and ‘Them’

Client side, agency side, any side—it doesn’t matter. What matters is the type of relationship that is fostered, developed and perpetuated. Ideally, a team that shares common marketing goals and is assembled for success.

That team needs to be open, honest, transparent—and just plain right! It also needs to be symbiotic.

So what does that mean? Whatever side you are on, you just want to make sure that you aren’t redundant with each other. The job of the collective team working across both sides is to ensure that they have assembled the right team with the right skill sets. And, contrary to popular belief, that means not staffing a one-for-one relationship or creating a mirror team; instead, it means creating a complementary team. A team that fills in the gaps that exist on either side. A team that complements each other’s skills.

It’s a common mistake to think of agencies as just tactical partners. I’m not sure when this changed. Years ago agencies were essentially part of the client’s marketing team. They had a vested interest in the success of the organization, not just the creative or the ads. One of the best teams that I was part of had a client-side marketing organization of five people, and the agency served as the marketing department.

This was a wildly successful group; and only when I became a client did I understand it. Driven by accounting, it winds up being more strategic than anyone could imagine. By that I mean to the client budgets are paramount, and the intricacies of fixed vs. variable costs always come into play. When you need to cut budget, it is much easier to cut a variable cost than a fixed cost. And, well, I hate to admit it, but agencies are considered variable costs.

There’s a secret, though: An agency’s mind-set is entirely different when staffers feel they are part of the team and not a vendor. There’s another secret: The agency is not distracted by the pressure of budget cuts and politics. They are focused on the work and succeeding. And when they succeed, clients succeed.

So, it is not “us” and “them”; it is about the collective team and the symbiotic relationship. It is not about fees and budgets; it is about the work. The right symbiotic team staying focused on the work yields the best results. The best results yield business growth and success. It is probably the most obvious, but overlooked component to a successful marketing initiative—assembling the right team to create relevant work.



by Keith Turco

President – New York

Cross-posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network