Big News Flash: Agency/Client Relationships Still Have Problems

The New York Times serves up this big scoop today.
Actually, the NYT story summarizes a new report from Salz Consulting in New York.

“This has not been a great year,” said Nancy L. Salz, president of Nancy L. Salz Consulting in New York, which has sponsored the Salz Survey of Advertiser-Agency Relations since 1986.
“A lot of the major indicators are down and it’s a struggle to get them to improve,” she said.
The results “are a real reflection that the industry is in a huge state of flux,” Ms. Salz said, as advertisers and agencies scramble to keep up with the seemingly continuous changes in consumer behavior, media choices and categories ranging from automobiles to packaged foods to telecommunications.
Even so, “as different as things are becoming,” Ms. Salz said, “this is still about an old-fashioned concept, people communicating with people.” And “there’s still a huge opportunity to improve sales just by working better together,” she said.

It’s probably an interesting report, but from the Times’ summary, it seems laden with statistics that you’d have to take with a grain of salt. Here’s what the report probably doesn’t mention:
Most agencies don’t trust their clients and vice versa. Agencies (and their creatives) are always angling for ways to do high-visibility, self-serving, award-winning work to get the attention of the ad industry. Clients always try to get the most out of their agency for as little money as possible. Most clients have no idea who’s doing the day-to-day work on their account. Most agencies generally loathe the idea of presenting work over and over again up the client’s chain of command to get approval. Most agencies don’t undertand their client’s business or industry. Most clients don’t understand the subjective nature of creativity.
There. I just gave you that analysis for free. What do y’all think? Feel free to add your own state-of-the-relationship tidbits.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Most clients have no idea who’s doing the day-to-day work on their account.
    It’s a thankless business, for sure. No wonder we have some many award shows.

  2. Doug Zanger says:

    Being a one-person creative “department” at a 7 station radio group, I can echo the “thankless” comment. I love it when a client decides to do something remarkable…but most of them take the “safe” route. That’s what is most frustrating, in general, about advertising. As a creative, my philosophy is a different in that I know a fresh approach can help a client first…the awards are secondary…though our main award (Radio Mercury) has a $100,000 top prize attached to it…that would motivate anyone to do exceptional work.

  3. How To Kiss Client Ass

    In Say Anything, John Cusack says he doesn’t want to sell, buy, or process anything as a career. What Cusack means is that he doesn’t want to kiss ass. We kiss ass in advertising. Of course, pretty much anybody…

  4. Hal Chase says:

    Interesting take on the Salz findings. Have been reviewing materials that tend to lean in the direction of your findings. Would like to get a copy of the Salz study. Is it available?
    hal chase

  5. Hal Chase says:

    INteresting take on the Salz findings. I have been reading materials that lean in your direction. I would like to see the whole Salz study. Do you know if it is available. Hal Chase

  6. Stephanie says:

    You never talk much about new biz in this blog (my gig) but I think much of the dynamics of the “relationship” are set up from the first interactions between prospect and agency.
    Think about what happens in many pitch situations: the agency says, sure we’ll do work for free, we’ll show you how “passionate” we are about your business – which often translates into how much money we can spend on gifts and gratuitous pitch theater…
    How does that establish the value of what we do?
    The best agency relationships start with agency and client communicate clearly about capablities, expectations, business goals, etc.