New R3 report reveals the secrets of the world’s longest agency/client relationships

Following the recent Association of National Advertisers (ANA) report in the US on transparency (or the supposed lack of it) agency/client marriages have never been tougher. Within the marketing sector, companies are taking core activities in-house, top talent is deserting agencies for the digital havens of Google, Facebook and Apple, and private investigators have been hired to interrogate agencies on potential rebates.

Against this backdrop, independent global consulting firm R3 commissioned a study to look at the global client/agency relationship and identify the secrets to the best partnerships. The study invested time throughout the last three months collecting over 100 submissions from leading global marketers and their agencies, before a final report – Global 40 – was issued.

The findings suggest that while marriage is under pressure, the value of a trusted global partnership can drive brand equity, business results and shareholder value. The 40 relationships in this study have lasted for an average of 22 years, compared to the industry average of 3.2 years – proving that managed pro-actively, these commitments can endure.

The world’s largest marketer Procter & Gamble has four relationships in the top 40. The company invests as much internal time on training its own team on agency management as it does immersing the agencies. Long term competitor, Unilever, appears twice, including one relationship that stretches back 117 years. Coca-Cola, Nike and McDonald’s have relationships involving their core creative agencies, but also media, digital and activation agencies as well.

Here are the longest relationships.

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The agencies in question are Unilever/MullenLowe (now incorporating the Lintas agency); GE/BBDO, Mars/BBDO, Levi’s/FCB, Audi/BBH, Nike/Wieden+Kennedy, McDonald’s/TBWA, Jack Daniel’s/FCB, Coca-Cola/Ogilvy, FedEx/BBDO and Nissan/TBWA.

R3 principal Greg Paull says: “Great marriages require mutual trust, a common understanding and clear goals. What separates these partnerships is a sense that both sides are working to improve brand outcomes, separate to personal agendas, politics and infighting.”

To judge the entries, R3 established rigorous criteria in advance. Submissions were given preference to the top 100 brands, proven on innovation and working process – and most importantly, results. Only those with clear metrics set and measured made it to the final 40.

THE SIX SECRETS OF A GREAT GLOBAL MARRIAGE

The study drew some important conclusions for CMOs on working with agencies on a global basis

1. Look to New Models – all cases in the report had experimented and tried new ways of working, structures and compensation outcomes. In a changing world, there is no final approach, only a constantly evolving one.

2. Face Time Matters – despite the advent of technology, the best partnerships find ways to regularly connect to share best practice. One marketer went so far as to hold a conference only for its global agencies to connect and collaborate.

3. Focus on Outcomes, Not Inputs – Agencies are increasingly putting ‘skin in the game’ as witnessed by McDonald’s recent Omnicom appointment. By setting up mutually common objectives, both sides are aligned to the right things.

4. Take Digital Seriously – Too many companies are buying digital by the yard, not by the year. Global CMOs need a strategic digital partner to help them navigate through a real digital transformation, not just a tactical execution partner.

5. Immersion Both Ways – Whether it’s agencies attending sales calls, flipping burgers or working the store, building that understanding of a client’s business remains more critical than ever. Likewise, the best clients are intimately aware of their own agency’s work for other companies, their talent growth and internal initiatives.

6. Benchmark and Evaluate – Global CMOs and agencies need to share a Dashboard of Best Practice, always looking to improve and drive effectiveness and efficiencies.

R3 is a leading global, regional and local consultancy group, focused on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of marketers and their agencies. we enable our clients to get the competitive edge and a better return on investment from agencies, media and marketing spend. With over 100 people in the US, Asia, EMEA and LATAM, we work with nine of the world’s top twenty marketers including Coca-Cola, Unilever, AB InBev, MasterCard, Mercedes Benz, Johnson & Johnson, Samsung and Kimberly Clark.

R3’s monthly new business league reports can be found here. Please write to [email protected] with any inquiries.

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