Rose Wangen-Jones, Global Business Director at JWT, shares her highlights from the IPA's Alliances Adaptathon.
The Alliances ADAPTATHON™ explored the question of how we develop and nurture strong client/agency relationships in our changing environment. Here are four ideas I found particularly interesting.
Creating psychological contracts
Julie Hay, founder of Psychological Intelligence, shared a range of ideas drawn from psychotherapy and transactional analysis. One of the concepts which resonated with me was the idea of a psychological contract - forging an understanding of how each side defines a relationship that has gone wrong.
I’m so used to focusing on what ‘success looks like’ that I found this quite intriguing. Focusing on your worst case scenario has the potential to uncover what really matters to each side and, arguably, identifies areas for potential compromise.
Creating relationship contracts
Later on, during my AdaptLab session, Troy Warfield from Avis shared a 50-year-old ‘relationship contract’ which Avis’ founder had drawn up to guide the client/agency relationship.
This gave a different twist to the psychological contract. In it, it plainly states that ‘Avis will never know as much about advertising as DDB nor will DDB ever know as much about the car rental market as Avis.’
As such, it instructs the marketing team not to meddle with creative aside from either approving or rejecting an idea and, on the agency side, expects that the agency only present work that they strongly believe is the right answer to a brief.
The encouragement of respect and trust plus real passion and knowledge for the business should alone be the formula for great work and long-lasting, strong relationships.
Using 'strokes' to generate empathy
Another concept coming out of Julie Hay’s presentation that was particularly appealing was the idea of ‘strokes.’ She defined strokes as ‘anything that demonstrates you are aware of the other person’.
This could be done visually, verbally or with touch and particularly useful as a way of making the recipient ‘feel ok.’ Being Latin, I’m physically unable to make a point unless I’m wildly gesticulating and touching people.
Little did I know that this was the true secret to my success. Or maybe not. I remember during my first interview in London touching my interviewer only to have him jump nearly off the chair. Actually, I did get the job so maybe there is something to this touching thing!
That aside, Julie’s more serious point revolved around understanding the ‘stroking’ wave length of our counterparts as a way of generating empathy and cementing a relationship.
Who pays for failure?
And last but not least, I wanted to finish with Jan Gooding’s provocation during our AdaptLab session. In her talk she asked: who pays for failure? When the work doesn’t work, who really is at risk? She saw a close link between the working relationship and the financial/commercial relationship of agencies and clients.
Using the example of a problem she'd experienced recently, she explained how the resolution needed to include both a ‘what do we do next’ and ‘who pays for it’ discussion.
But her real point was that, ultimately, clients and agencies do not manage the same level of risk. While agencies can worry about the financial implications of a problem, the real concern is about the reputational impact to a brand. So, in Jan’s view, it is the brand and therefore the client, that ultimately pays for failure.
Whether I agree or not, it was a good reminder that doing right by the brand should be the ultimate relationship builder.
Find out more about the IPA's Adapt programme.
Last updated 07/10/2013