Building Agency Relationships with PUNCH

“Quality of work an agency produces is directly proportionate to the strength of its relationship with the client.” Andrew Baxter CEO Publicis

Last we delved into the topic of giving great feedback. The cornerstone of this is to ensure that we have amazing relationships with our agency partners.

From a Brand Builder perspective, we want to strive for productive and enduring relationships with PUNCH, an acronym that summarizes 5 interconnected principles, which we will now work through.


1. Professional

This talks to the concept of trust.

Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship – without it paranoia rules, making it difficult to challenge thinking without people becoming defensive and discouraging risk taking for fear of failure.

Furthermore, a lack of trust gets in the way of fully immersing our agencies in our business and processes, inhibiting the development of unified partnerships.

Trust allows us to spend less time managing and monitoring and more time nurturing and coaching.

The keys to building trust are assuming positive intent and a commitment to constant and transparent communication.

Assuming positive intent helps prevent unnecessary and emotive confrontation, which erodes trust. It is also a clear signal of faith in our partner, which more often than not is reciprocated in their actions.

Finally, communication helps drive clarity around expectations, roles and responsibilities, letting both parties nowhere they stand and avoiding misunderstandings, which lead to frustration and undermine trust.



Central to our Brand Builder philosophy and process, this principle encourages us to approach our agency relationships from a perspective of true partnerships.

As opposed to a “supplier” (which by its nature suggests a subservient and arms length relationship), we should seek to fold our agency partners into our business, treating them as a member of our virtual brand team.

As mentioned above, to achieve this we need to invest time and money educating and immersing our partners in our business, brands and processes – helping create alignment around common goals and language.


3. Nurturing

Closely linked to the concepts of unification and partnership, nurturing involves a commitment to continual improvement through a long terms focus and ongoing feedback.

This long-term focus acknowledges that all relationships worth having are going to have their ups and downs. Importantly, it signals a willingness to work through the rough spots because we believe in the inherent value of the partnership that’s been built up over time.

Linked to this, on going feedback is not only important for our personal and collective development, it also helps clear the air and stop tension and frustration building up over time.

To successfully deliver against this principle we need to champion a “feedback culture”. In this culture, feedback feels natural and becomes part of our daily jobs. This we went through in last week’s blog giving great feedback

4. Challenging

This simple but important principle talks to the need for maintaining a healthy edge to the relationship – keeping the passion alive and ensuring we don’t settle for anything short of outstanding creative product.

Although it may feel uncomfortable at times, it’s about being open to and actively encouraging our agency partners to challenge our thinking, hold us accountable to our Brand Builder process and fight for ideas they believe in.

Given the traditional nature of the agency client dynamic, this takes courage and relies on us creating an environment whereby our partners feel comfortable challenging us without fear of any repercussions.

One way to do this is to use feedback to reinforce effective challenge when you see it demonstrated by the agency. On the flip side, it’s also about us having the strength to push back on our agencies when they’ve failed to meet our expectations.

From an agency perspective, every creative presentation is an opportunity to “keep the fires burning at home” by presenting work that pushes us out of our comfort zone – work that makes us feel nervous but also energised around its potential.

The one caveat to this is challenging work that’s “within budget.” Although there will always be exceptions, the time for pushing back on the budget is at the briefing session, not the final presentation.

5. Happy

Last but not least, we should also strive for mutually rewarding relationships that both parties enjoy being part of.

Creating happy relationships are largely a function of delivering against the principles outlined above, however there are a couple of other things we can do to help along the way.

Not surprisingly, money issues are one of the common causes of unhappy client/agency relationships. It’s important that we renumerate our agency partners fairly for the work they do. We don’t expect to sell our products for nothing (although sometimes we do!) and nor should we expect our agencies to give away their services. We need to work in partnership with our procurement team and agency to agree a realistic scope of works and remuneration plan. Linked to this, we also need to ensure that we follow the purchase order and invoicing process so they get paid in accordance with the agreed terms of the contract.

From an agency side, it’s all about managing expectations and avoiding “nasty budget surprises”. Inevitably, some unexpected costs will incur that are outside of the agencies control and all we can ask is that they’re communicated to us sooner rather than later.

Finally, it’s important that we take time out to celebrate our successes. This helps further cement the relationship and act as a reminder of why it’s important to ride out the tough times.

CMO Perspective – Phil Beinert @ GoDaddy

GoDaddy has not traditionally worked with a lot of outside companies. It’s something that’s part of the DNA of the company – this drive for self-sufficiency. Most of the Super Bowl ads you’ve seen were done entirely in-house. We started working with ad agencies for the first time about three years ago, and we just named our first-ever global marketing agency for the full marketing mix-traditional and digital. We have the opportunity to set it up the right way which is great. We’re in the middle of kicking it off and onboarding with TBWA, who we just named as our agency.

To get that right, I created a position to make sure we work well with our agency partners around the world. It’s a senior person on the team, and it’s worth having that type of role because those partnerships are so important. Done right, it’s truly a partnership. It’s truly an extension of the team, not this agency-client-vendor kind of thing. The best agency relationships, I’ve had been those where you get to a level of working where, to put it bluntly, you can call bullshit on each other. I’ve had those relationships. They’ve been incredibly successful because folks aren’t worried about who the boss is. It’s more about letting the best idea win, and you can argue it out, decide, move on, and make great decisions. That’s how we’re approaching onboarding our first true global agency partner.

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