This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder and Global CEO of TrinityP3. With his background as analytical scientist and creative problem solver, Darren brings unique insights and learnings to the marketing process. He is considered a global thought leader on agency remuneration, search and selection and relationship optimisation.
A marketer told me they were looking for an agency to partner with. I had heard this many times and I thought it was just another empty use of the word ‘partner’. Agencies will often say they partner with their clients. So I ask, when their clients make a loss, does the agency offer to pay back the fees to their clients so they make a loss too? Not usually.
In this case the marketer was actually serious. They wanted to appoint an agency who was willing to directly link the agency’s success to the marketer’s success. This has been something we have promoted and championed for many years. Here was a marketer that actually wanted a partnership but this is the exception and not the rule.
Even under the old media commission system the agency was not a partner of the advertiser. They were an agent. Just like a real estate agent or a travel agent, you do not think of either of these relationships as partnerships. The agent is someone who gets paid based on the amount transacted.
The most common model today is hourly rates or retainers. It is a fee for service. Just like an accountant or a lawyer or a tradesman. And again you do not think of these people as a partner. They may be a trusted adviser or a professional service or a skilled worker, but they are not your partners.
So why is the concept of a partnership so well established between agencies and their advertising clients?