Collaboration and Trust Are Key to the Client-Agency Relationship

Lisa Crawford, VP, integrated operations at Cronin

The 4A’s is committed to sharing the experiences, insights and views of its members. In this op-ed, Lisa Crawford, VP, integrated operations at Cronin, writes about collaboration and trust between clients and agencies.

“If we want others to trust us, the first step is to be trustworthy.” –Onora O’Neill

As someone who’s worked on the production side of the advertising business for 25 years, this statement rings true to me given the significant role trust plays in servicing our clients and, more important, in our ability to build and maintain long-lasting relationships with them.

Every project and scenario that goes through the agency is unique and no circumstances are exactly the same. In today’s business environment, technology and processes change rapidly, and deadlines and budgets continue to get tighter. As a result, it’s imperative to be creative and practical when seeking out the best production options. However, in addition to providing clients with the best solutions, agencies also have a responsibility to share with clients the information that led to those solutions so they can make informed decisions on the choices we provide.

When deciding on the best production solution for a television spot or video, for example, all the factors of the project and concept are considered to inform the approach. We want to collaborate with people who will “plus” the idea. We look for a production partner who is as excited about the project as we are. We provide bids and treatments to the client and are open with them on why we recommended a particular vendor; the expertise and experience of each choice; and added-value opportunities. We work hard to ensure that all parties understand the scope of the project from start to finish.

We encourage our clients to participate in the entire production experience — from pre-production to post. We want to educate them and engage them in the process. We have open, honest and candid discussions with our clients. They feel empowered to make informed decisions with us. We find this practice benefits both parties and builds trust and mutual respect. Our production partners support this approach as it ultimately utilizes their time productively, helps to stay on schedule and within budget.

We’re just as transparent when we produce a job in-house. Depending on the budget, complexity of the concept, and other critical factors, it’s sometimes determined the best solution is to utilize our in-house production resources. We ensure that the client fully understands what they’re getting for their money and the specifics of what will be done in-house and what will be done out-of-house.

Recently, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) released a report claiming some advertising agencies and holding companies engage in non-transparent business practices related to the production of broadcast, video and event materials. The report sites claims of bid-rigging and the lack of transparency when it comes to agency in-house production resources.

Although this doesn’t directly affect our process, it serves as a reminder to clients that they need to be educated. They should ask questions; understand what production services are being done in-house vs out-of-house; inquire about the specifications that were  provided to vendors used to inform the bids; know who the parties involved are; who is overseeing the production; and what are the agency’s bidding procedures. A client should fully expect their agency to provide these answers.

As a member of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) and a SAG-AFTRA signatory, Cronin has long followed a code of ethics built on collaboration and transparency both of which are key to establishing trust. Having an agency that is open, honest and forthright is the only way to achieve a strong relationship and, ultimately, will get a client the best results.

This op-ed originally appeared on Cronin’s blog: