4 things your ad agency is secretly dying to tell you

Most ad men and ad ladies will tell you that the most frustrating part about their job is managing their clients.

I can’t explain it, but perfectly reasonable people somehow transform into tyrants once they become clients. When one becomes the client of an ad agency, it’s like they somehow forget what it’s like to be on a properly functioning team. And this makes them miss this very plain truth: Being bad at teamwork means that you’ll end up frustrating your ad agency, which is not the best way to get someone to do their best work for you.

So how do you establish a great working relationship with your agency?

Below are the 4 most common frustrations that ad agencies wish clients understood. Keep these in mind the next time you hire an agency and you’ll get their best possible work in return.

1. We’re your partners, not your slaves


The best clients I’ve ever had made our team feel like we were working with them, not for them.

As a result, both sides knew about everything that was going on. Communication was transparent and we were able to easily navigate around obstacles that came along the way. It was so easy to create a winning campaign.

In contrast, I’ve worked with clients that constantly miss deadlines, yet pressure agencies to meet theirs. Client deadlines are optional, but those set for agencies become mandatory.

2. Get your stuff in order before hiring us


Some clients are also experts at needlessly wasting money. I’ve seen budgets that we were told could not be expanded suddenly increase…then double…then triple — all because someone didn’t do the proper due diligence!

Picture someone who wants to build a house. They hire a construction company. The only direction given to the company is “go build me a house” — with no further details regarding things like who will live in it and how many rooms it needs. So the construction company does its best given the vague direction. Lots of money is spent. Then just as the house is almost complete, the government intervenes and the client discovers they haven’t obtained the land permits to build on that property. The project is scrapped and the house cannot be completed.

This nightmare scenario happens and it has happened to me.

One of my projects was  a mobile game with a 5-figure budget. The client came to us with only a rough idea of what they wanted, so the project ended up taking many months, countless hours of meetings, and of course, we quickly went over budget into the 6-figures.

Unfortunately, as everything was almost ready, the client realised that he hadn’t obtained all the necessary licenses for the game. The result? Everything was shelved. All that time and energy down the drain.

Ad agencies like getting paid, but if they think that working with you will result in a lot of wasted work that never sees the light of day, you can bet that you won’t get their A-team the next time you come calling.

3. We really need you to give better feedback


Client feedback meetings are one of the most dreaded moments during the course of a campaign.

And it is not because the agency doesn’t want your input; your feedback is crucial to making sure that the campaign is a hit. The problem is that most clients don’t know how to give feedback.

So here are three simple rules on how to give feedback your agency will love:

Be consistent: This goes back to knowing what you want. If you’re constantly changing direction, you’re going to frustrate your agency.

Be concrete: The best clients I worked with were able to give concrete, specific notes on what they liked and didn’t like during a feedback round.

Consolidate your feedback: Have one person communicate the feedback to the agency. And make sure to get decision makers involved early. Too many cooks in the kitchen are bad, but it’s worse when the head cook vetoes the meal right as the dish is about to go out the door.

4. For the love of God, pay us on time



To get your campaign produced, an agency manages many moving pieces on your behalf. For example, a 30 second TV spot can involve the following vendors:

  • production company
  • post-production company
  • audio production company
  • talent agencies
  • music licensing
  • media company / media stations

These vendors often need upfront payment to get going. So having slow feet on paying your ad agency strains the relationships your agency has with their partners.

Many clients simply “send the invoice to finance” and then wash their hands of the responsibility. If you personally ensure that your ad agency is being paid promptly, then your ad agency will be able to get their best partners working on your campaign.

Getting the best possible work out of your agency

The most productive client-agency relationships are those where the communication channels are open. The best work I’ve ever seen came out of truly collaborative relationships.

The writer is Dillah Zakbal , a product manager at Pie.