When it comes to marketing, advertisers have many options. They can choose to work with a variety of agencies, switch agencies frequently, or maintain a long-term relationship with a single agency.
While there are pros and cons to each approach, the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) believes there are important benefits for advertisers to keep working with the same ad agency year after year.
A survey conducted by The Observatory International & World Federation of Advertisers in 2019 found that 65% of surveyed Advertisers believe a long term relationship with their Agency is either important, very important or essential in producing great work.
This was based on responses from 42 senior client-side marketers representing 35 different brand owners in more than 14 categories that collectively spend just under US$50billion on global advertising.
“Astute advertisers understand the value of developing and maintaining a long working relationship with their agency,” said Khairudin Rahim, 4As CEO. “There are many advantages to such a relationship, including consistency, efficiency, and depth of expertise.”
Working with the same agency over an extended period will help ensure that the brand’s message remains consistent across all advertising channels. The agency will have a better understanding of the brand’s values, voice, and objectives, and will work to maintain that consistency in all advertising efforts.
Abdul Sani Abdul Murad, Group Chief Marketing Officer at RHB Banking Group said, “As a marketer, it’s important to recognize that sustaining a healthy and productive relationship with your agency partners requires a lot of effort from both parties. However, the benefits of investing in these relationships can pay off significantly for your business in the long run.
As time goes by, the agency will begin to have deeper understanding of your brand and the complex business you’re in. Gaining such experience and knowledge takes time, and if you build on top of this knowledge, you will soon discover much more efficient and collaborative ways of churning great creative work that is engaging and effective.
At RHB, we have seen first-hand how investing in long-term relationships with our agency partners has contributed to our brand success. Our brand equity strength has shown a consistent upward trend, which has translated into a remarkable growth rate.
Specifically, since partnering with our agency, our brand value has increased at a rate three times faster than before, underscoring the significant impact of this long-term partnership on our brand performance. Our brand has steadily climbed up the rankings, and we are proud to have reached the 11th spot in Malaysia’s most valuable brand list, according to Brand Finance. This marks a significant improvement from our previous position at 18th place years before, underscoring our sustained growth and increasing brand recognition.
As the relationship grows, you’re able to harness the creativity and the passion of the agency to help your business stay ahead of the competitor curve. Such agile working chemistry that exists between the client and agency will certainly yield better results for the marketing work produced. When done well, we have observed that it could improve the Return on Marketing Investment by close to 50%.”
Nevertheless, working with the same agency for a long time can lead to a lack of fresh ideas and stagnation in creative campaigns, while the agency may become complacent in their work, leading to a lack of effort and mediocre campaigns. Furthermore, the agency may have limited expertise in new technologies or channels that could benefit the brand.
“Some advertisers feel that there are disadvantages to working with an agency for many years, including a lack of new ideas, agency complacency, and a lack of agency competency development,” said Khairudin. “However, some of the disadvantages of changing agencies every two or three years include a drain on resources, loss of institutional knowledge, and disruption to campaigns,” he added.
When switching agencies, it takes time and resources to identify a new agency, negotiate contracts, and onboard the new agency.
Additionally, the new agency may not have the same level of institutional knowledge about the brand, which could result in a learning curve and potentially a dip in the quality of work. This can also cause disruption to ongoing campaigns while the new agency gets up to speed.
Abdul Sani added, “It can be as much as 16 times more expensive to build a long term relationship with a brand new agency than to maintain an existing relationship. Instead it is often worthwhile to strengthen the existing relationship and make the necessary effort to fix any synergy cracks that exist because we’re only as good as our weakest link.
Convey clearly your expectations, objectives, growth roadmaps and KPI which you wish to accomplish together with the agency partner and have regular check-ins to see how the agency and your team are coping in meeting them collectively. Have open discussions between the teams focused on course-correcting measures to address any shortcomings objectively. Having such sessions can eventually avoid either parties from falling into an unwanted state of complacency.”
“On balance, the 4As is of the belief that the benefits of a long term working relationship with an agency far outweigh the potential downsides, none of which are insurmountable. Fore-warned is fore-armed, to be prepared is half the victory,” concluded Khairudin.