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A Real-life reflection on Client-Agency relationship maintenance

My first words would be that this blog does not aim to provide any solutions to any unsolved problems related to maintaining a good relationship between agencies and their clients. Rather, I am writing this blog mostly with the purpose to discover some facts about what is truly happening out there in the communication industry, when clients and their creative agencies work together. A lot of scientific reports, theories and studies by experts in the client service major have already given us good ideas about the strategies and tactics to keep clients. In this blog, you may find similarities between theories and practice, as well where they did not really match together. Particularly, my blog will focus on the impact of being proactive on maintaining a good relationship, and from the point of view of a client.

Image

‘Pro-act! Don’t React.’

Reproduced from Fotolia (2013)

So we are all clear that relationship is one of the most important things in doing business. We also often hear people saying that they are trying to meet more people, expand their network and read books like ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People?’ in order to do better in their business. The author of our textbook ‘The Art Of Client Service’, Robert Solomon, once said “Advertising is about the work, but remember that advertising is a business. Business is about relationships, and a great relationship allows great work to flourish”. Obviously learning how to establish and maintain good relationships is significantly necessary, no matter which major you are in. The reason is, at the end of the day, almost everything around us turns out to be business, and again business is about relationships.

The Interview

Being so much concerned about this topic, three weeks ago I managed to hold an interview with Ms.Bui The Anh, the Executive Assistant to CEO of XL Entertainment, the parent company of Saigon Sports Academy and the Vietnamese professional basketball team,Saigon Heat.The interview was pretty insightful, Ms.Anh had told me a lot about the comfort as well as the problems she had when working with YAN Live, an entertainment events agency under its parent company YAN Group. The two companies have been working together for 4 years.It was the time when XL Entertainment was holding the basketball competition for its team Saigon Heat against other teams from nations in the Southeast Asia region. I am pretty sure the competition is still going on at the moment.

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Ms.Anh at a Saigon Heat’s match

Photo of Anh Bui (2012)

Ms.Anh was directed by her boss to work as an Account Manager and to take responsibilities for, together with the XL Entertainment’s event manager, monitor the competition, check the contracts with YAN Live and write the event report after the competition is finished. She told me that overall her company is quite pleased with the quality and good support from YAN Live when they helped promote the team Saigon Heat on YAN TV really well. However, as an event company, in Ms.Anh’s opinion, YAN Live did not do well in holding the competition for her company. The main issue is about the lack of proactivity from YAN Live in solving unpredicted problems thatoccur when the events are taking place. More seriously, YAN Live even shows no proactivity or effort in trying to maintain a good relationship with their client, Ms.Anh and her company, after failing to deliver a proper event service. Also, according to Ms.Anh, YAN Live’s operation is not good as they did not organize the different tasks really well in the events.

The Reflections

Importantly, Ms.Anh shared with me that although YAN Live did not do well in the competition season, her company still decides to co-work with them. The reason is because XL Entertainment and YAN Group are monitored to work together by IDG Ventures Vietnam (IDGVV), the biggest fund giver of both companies. IDGVV is also a very ‘powerful’ company as it is directed by Mr.Henry Nguyen, who has a close personal relationship with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. As a result, YAN Group, or YAN Live, does not fear that they will lose the cooperation with XL Entertainment so they do not make any effort to keep the relationship. Also, because YAN Group is a big company with lots of credibility, the XL Entertainment top managers would be pleased to keep the contract with them. This is where I find the theory and the practice align. First, Solomon, in chapter 38 of our textbook, indicated that clients often choose agencies by looking at their good work, but will decide to keep the relationship with them or make a termination by looking at the relationship with them. Second, the study about the longevity of client-agency relationship done by Mark Davies and Mel Prince also talked about how well a large-sized and old-aged agency would attract and keep the clients for a long-term cooperation. The same situation happened to YAN Group.

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Ms.Anh and me

Photo by the author (2013)

What I find different between theory and practice is specifically about the proactivity of the agencies in solving problems regards to their relationship with clients. The report named ‘Exploring the dimension of proactivity within advertising agency-client relationship’ done by Michael Beverland, Francis Farrelly and Zeb Woodhatch suggested that in order to keep the contracts with clients, an agency should be able to not only proactively find solutions to beat the on-going problems but also anticipate what would likely to happen to the relationship in the future. It is even preferable that agencies suggest the new approaches to particular problems. The authors also stated “proactivity within relationships enhanced client commitment and resulted in increased longevity of the relationships”. In the case of XL Entertainment and YAN Live, it seems that the agency does not need to be proactive in solving the problems at all but still can keep its client. Again the reason is simply because they know that they will not lose the cooperation for any cause.

My final words would be that obviously there are always similarities and differences, or even contrasts, between theory and practice. I personally think that in the relationship and cooperation manner, it will be better for future client managers like us to observe and learn from real-life situations. I hope my blog entertained and informed you well enough.

What do you think about this topic?

 

Word count: 1034

Written by Le Ho An Khuong s3324170

 

References

Beverland, M, Farrelly, F & Woodhatch, Z 2007, ‘Exploring the dimension of proactivity within advertising agency-client relationship’, Journal of Advertising, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 49-60.

Bui, A 2013, interview, 18 April (Executive Assistant to CEO of XL Entertainment)

Davies, M & Prince, M 1999, ‘Examining the Longevity of New Agency Accounts: A Comparative Study of U.S. and U.K. Advertising Experiences’, Journal of Advertising, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 75-89.

Solomon, R 2008, The Art Of Client Service, Revised and Updated Edition: 58 Things Every Advertising & Marketing Professional Should Know, Kaplan Publishing, New York.

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3 thoughts on “A Real-life reflection on Client-Agency relationship maintenance

  1. Wow! Lots of juicy information! I like how you were able to convince your interviewee to boldly share these insights. I agree with your frustration that because ‘its a sure thing’ based on a preordained relationship, the service providers are not proactive. However, it would be good to wrap-up with some positive tips for clients who are in a similar situation. How can they make sure their service providers (events team, etc.) do not rest on their laurels. Overall though- good flow between practical ideas from the interviewee and links to our lessons. Well done Khuong. ~Mel C

    • Anonymous on said:

      Thanks Mel C,
      You know even I don’t have a clue what to do in such situation. In Ms.Anh’s case not only she does not have the power to make decision but her boss cannot make the termination either. She had told me that the only solution she had is to be best prepared to solve the problems occuring at the events themselves (her company). I think that’s the most realistic way.

      And also, FYI, she’s my cousin and that’s how I juggled to grasp such sensitive information. 🙂

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