Mike Shaw
Mike Shaw 3 October 2018

A perfect match: How agencies can secure long-term client relationships

One thing that this hot British summer has shown us is the pull that successful partnerships have on our society. The big – and literal - winners of Love Island (the finale was watched by a record 4.1m viewers) were faithful Dani & Jack, who’d been a couple since the beginning of the 8-week run. .

Even more prominently, Harry and Meghan’s nuptials inside St. George’s chapel pulled 18 million Brits in front of the TV. The UK is clearly feeling ready for commitment. Long-term relationships aren’t only for royals and happy couples. Companies are also benefitting from commitment – established relationships between equal partners can bring stability, efficiency and long-term success to all those involved. And the media industry is no different, with brands and agencies looking to find the yin to their yang

The secrets to successful long-term relationships

We’ve all received well-intentioned advice from family and friends about how to successfully keep a long-term relationship happy and stable. They usually range from the obvious (communication, openness) to the absurd (treat them mean, keep them keen). At dataxu we are better placed to advise brands and agencies on how to find and keep successful business relationships. We recently asked advertisers and media agencies worldwide about the capabilities they are looking for in their future partners. Agencies know that they will have to adapt to continue to be a valuable partner for brands. In the next five years, they want to focus on their data capabilities, with 23% of agencies saying they need to improve on mastering advanced analytics and data science, and 15% hoping their clients will see them as a digital transformation partner. Creative (15%) and strategic skills (16% want to gain expertise in consulting) will equally remain important, meaning that agencies would like to be perfect all-rounders. 

Luckily, brands are looking for similar attributes in their perfect agency partner. When asked for their top requirements, 24% of advertisers said they are looking for a partner that is creative and innovative – which fits well with the areas media agencies want to focus on. Another 21% said they are looking for a strategic advisor to help them through the changes in the industry. In the changing tides of digital transformation, strong partners will be able to support each other and grow together.

Our study shows that the stars are aligned for many brands and agencies who are looking for the same features. Both parties know that the next five years will involve strong collaboration on creative and strategic work, to help prepare for digital transformation together. 

Facing the brave new world together

Brands and agencies alike are conscious of the digital transformation sweeping across industries, and know that they will have to adapt their procedures and strategies to stay on top of the competition. Programmatic media buying is a big part of this, which is why brands are looking for agencies to provide them with the necessary expertise. 22% of brands see identifying and on-boarding programmatic technology as their biggest challenge in the next five years. However, agencies are aware that there is definite need for improvement if they are to stay as an expert partner to brands. Even though more than 6 in 10 agencies (63%) say they include programmatic in at least three quarters of media plans they draft for clients, only 30% see themselves as experts on programmatic. These remaining agencies will have to play catch-up in order to avoid losing out against the competition. 

The brands we spoke to were looking for an agency partner who can provide the necessary expertise to complement their needs. Respondent replies included “knowledgeable partners” and “require more information readily available to me” to identify the ideal agency partner characteristics. This demonstrates a real chance for agencies to showcase their knowledge and gain long-term relationships with brands that are relying on their expert advice. Those brands looking to rely on external partners for programmatic will do well to commit to agencies who are continuously working on perfecting their knowledge.

The perfect left brain – right brain combination

Most agencies are looking to get to that blissful stage of long-term partnerships, where you spend your Friday nights having a drink while putting the world to rights. In order to get there, agencies need to make sure they are offering their brand partners the services that they really need. Agencies should be working on both their creative and strategic skills to complement their brand partners and provide valuable support, no matter what the individual challenges in the years to come might be. 

One thing is for certain: data analytics, and especially programmatic media buying, will only gain importance in the next five years. Agencies should invest in developing the necessary data capabilities to remain attractive to brands, and to avoid being swapped by their long-standing partners for a newer, snazzier and more data-savvy version. 

The right partner doesn’t just fall from the sky. Agencies and brands will need to go through a proper courting process to ensure they can find their media buying soul mate, one that complements their strengths and weaknesses and has a similar outlook on the future. Once they have found the yin to their yang, they will be able to work, develop and create together in a harmonious long-term relationship. 

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