Agency transformation – the “buzz word” that you can find at least three times in almost every serious interview, takes on the symbolism of the holy grail of the advertising industry. Agency transformation is talked about in the context of restructuring agency business for the purpose of digitalisation, but perhaps the most commonly mentioned transformation is one that is tied to the agency-client relationship, because knowing all the details of the client’s business and participating in it is promoted as the only way for agencies to survive. So why are texts about successful transformation cases, as examples of good practice, so much harder to find than those that warn about looser agency-client relationships, poorer business results, and some kind of creative crisis?
Given that there are no tangible results of these transformations, and strong domestic brands in Bosnia and Herzegovina are in low single digits, perhaps instead of transformation we should talk about the evolution of client-agency relationships, from parasitic, to mutual symbiosis, one in which long-term interactions between the two organisms (the agency and the client) exist for mutual benefit. It is a relationship where both parties do their jobs, share the risk and hope for the best. And most importantly, they consciously accept such a relationship.
Thus, the key transformation question is how to establish, develop and expand this relationship? Each side has its share of the workload and must do it well, because without that, there is no survival. Mutual symbiosis does not tolerate compromise, and perhaps its greatest strength lies there.
Consciously accepting such a relationship means being “at the top of your game” and knowing how to say “NO” to the client. No to lower prices, no to playing it safe, no to compromises that result in a one-time profit. Every NO needs a YES – yes, we believe in our work and yes, we are ready to take risks.
A series of such “NOs” and a lot of “YESs” have led our agency to its first symbiosis with a client, through cooperation with the then still small AND developing brand of natural cosmetics. At the beginning of our cooperation, there was nothing to suggest that we would embark on such a significant process with the team of Gloria natural cosmetics, except for the fact that they won us over with their Herzegovina warmth and sincerity. They came on a recommendation, wanting to make a regional brand out of their products. They knew that they had the raw materials and recipe for premium products, but that they needed help to move forward and reach their ambitions. We said our first “YES” and created the first three-month campaign, which yielded positive results, but not enough to use increased sales and existing capital to finance everything needed for faster development and tactical campaigns, with a constant presence, which is crucial for long-term results. This is where our symbiosis was created, a real example of the transformation of what had been established client relationships.
Our relationship was conditioned by only one rule – that we have complete freedom regarding the further development of the brand, and that the client takes cares of the quality of the product. Of course, trust is key for both symbiosis and entering a calculated risk, since both parties take their earnings out of year-end profits. The saying goes: “The greater the risk, the greater the reward”. In our case, that turned out to be true. After the first activities and strategic setup at the end of 2018, the client achieved higher sales in the first 6 months of 2019 than during all of 2018. The cash flow generated enables us to have a strong campaign in the second half of the year. If the results follow the current trend, we have created a serious competitor in the “beauty” segment and a big advertiser for the future. In addition to the business results, we enjoy the sincere gratitude of the client and the professional satisfaction of the agency team, which is developing the brand as if it were their own.
Maybe the symbiosis between agency and client is the transformation we need?