Spot On Situation

“Agency - Client Relationship Deteriorates”

Personal Outlook – by Zeina Akkawi

Dubai-United Arab Emirates


After a fair positive 2015, the client/agency motivation and dynamics has hit a barricade with the number of agencies recording relationship improvements falling from 70% confidence to less than 50%. This is due to an increasingly competitive scenery of agencies, freelancers or those ‘wanting to do everything’ individuals in town; where clients work across multiple sources and are feeling the pressure to not only produce successful marketing/PR/Digital campaigns, but also to “over-take” their competitors in areas that are still relatively new “digital marketing, influencers, products and experiences”, as well as marketing creativity and strategy.


The client/agency motivation and dynamics today is getting into a severe dilemma; as agencies have a less optimistic outlook on the market and relationships with clients due to the economical, political and financial situation within the ME. This isn’t surprising as clients are pushing for various and unexpected deliverables from their agencies and aren’t particularly loyal to one neither; and majority do not understand how it works.


Studying this deeper; we discovered that companies are hiring what are so called marketers who have never worked in marketing; and for the purpose of cutting down on salaries. Majority today, have no ethics in email writing, respecting deadlines and meetings; knowing how to put a marketing plan together neither understands the market or speak proper languages that suit the environment or country. Yet again; they expect miracles to look good in front of their superiors when they themselves don’t know what they want.


Additionally; we can’t deny that the entrepreneurial fashion of opening Marketing companies/agencies; managed by people that don’t understand marketing; had caused mistrust of clients in agency capabilities. It’s unfortunate; as it kills the years of expertise of existing professionals in this field.


On the other hand; we see that agencies who provide both traditional PR/ATL services in addition to digital services are suffering from such situations; and are more likely to have concerns than agencies that provide digital services only. This is likely due to the changes that these agencies, as well as their clients, had to undergo to adjust to the evolving digital scenery. This transformation can be painful, resulting in a negative impact on the client/agency dynamics and does indicate that new models and scenarios aren’t going to save these relationships.


Instead, agencies and clients need to come back to an agreed model and invest as much in the relationship as they do in technology or consumer trends. This will only happen through understanding what clients want, training and consulting the marketing managers, investing in market research and understanding what to spend and where.


In 2015 clients and agencies had different perceptions on how to drive improvements of a brand or company within the market. 2016 therefore, had revealed larger gaps and less uncertainty in that area due to lack of expertise; and in specific the understanding of online vs. offline marketing. Clients picked sides on this issue meanwhile agencies are feeling less optimistic claiming that their clients’ current organizational structures; that should facilitate plans and innovations; had dropped down massively.


As the term innovation widens and companies are feeling the pressure to remain competitive, many organizations are not devoting time to create or think; making them react, throw their responsibilities on others, and create unrealistic deliverables or scenario which might cause them to flip backwards. Agencies, on the other hand, find that working with these newly formed teams or processes is even more awkward; bringing more unrealistic outlooks into projects and making agencies lose their credibility.


“I personally believe that there should be a serious restructuring model that every company and agency should consider; and that is by using proper consultants and HR experts; training investments in existing staff, putting efforts in market research; and building trust and relationships with people/companies in the same caliber and professionalism. This will build and raise the platform and create trust/innovation again between companies; and will also eliminate unnecessary existing bubbles”


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