The Real Cost of Being a Bad Client

Kim Walker

Kim Walker 0Comments

Posted: 04 Jul 2017


I’ve found that some marketing companies seem to encourage, or at least turn a blind eye to, hostile behaviour with their agency partners.

This is sometimes compounded by some ethnic cultures that adopt a more dictatorial attitude to their underlings. In the supplier context, we call this a ‘master – servant’ relationship.

For young marketers, dispensing commands to an agency team can be a power trip, an ego massage. In evil hands, this can lead to abuse. What’s more, it almost seems de rigeur for corporate procurement departments to deal with agencies as factories, discounting the vital ‘human elements’.

So, it was with great admiration that I learned of the comments from Burger King Global CMO Axel Schwan when accepting Cannes Lions Creative Marketer of the Year for 2017; he advised fellow marketers; “brands must respect agencies as partners, not dismiss them as vendors”.

He went on to say that “impactful creative work that drives sales and brand value is, in my experience, a result of a close and trustful partnership between clients and agencies”.

Perhaps attitudes would change if one could calculate the real cost of being a bad client? Well, we can! Just take a look at the graphic.

Analysis of over 16 million questions answered in our global database shows that top performing clients get thirty seven percent better output from creative agencies and twenty one percent better from media planning agencies.

Think of this as ‘37% missed opportunity in ROI’ for poor client capability and behaviour and we might start to change the way marketers manage the client-agency dynamic.

What’s more, our data shows with 99.99% accuracy, that as client capability and behaviour improves, so too does the agency’s work, and vice versa. Surely a more productive, rewarding and less stressful environment for all.

But without accurate, unbiased and regular measurement we fall back into the subjective realm of ‘he says, she thinks’. Fertile ground for relationship breakdown.

We absolutely echo the advice of Axel Schwan; “Your brand needs to be the most desirable brand to work for in an agency."

To prove my support, I might just go and buy a BK whopper for lunch!

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