BMA annual: What agencies want from clients

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Chicago—Marketing agency executives engaged in a wide-ranging discussion of what they'd like to see from their clients on Thursday at the BMA annual conference here. The panelists for the “Unleashing Your Agency” session were: Tom Browning, senior VP-group business director at DDB Chicago; John Favalo, managing partner-director of business-to-business at Eric Mower & Associates; Howard Sherman, president of Doremus & Co.; and Tom Stein, president-chief creative officer of Stein+Partners Brand Activation. Kathy Button Bell, VP-CMO of Emerson, moderated the session. Favalo said what he wants are “clients with big ears, clients that are ready to listen [to big ideas].” “Give us something important to do,” Sherman said, echoing Wednesday's conference theme of purpose-inspired marketing. “Our creative people are incredibly motivated by the opportunity to solve business problems,” Stein said. Asked how agencies can “train” their clients, Favalo said, “Maybe it's not so much training as keep talking.” When communication breaks down, he said, “bills get really, really high and relationships sour.” What's crucial, Favalo said, is to focus on outcomes rather than outputs and “make sure that the endgame always comes first.” The executives also discussed the future of results-based agency compensation. Browning said he looks forward to the day that the practice becomes commonplace, acknowledging, “It's going to take time to prove to CFOs that it's worth the gamble.” “It can be a great thing,” Stein said, noting that 20% of his agency's clients have opted for results-based compensation programs. The executives were generally upbeat about the outlook for their businesses. “What we're seeing is the budgets are getting smaller, but the opportunities are getting bigger,” Sherman said. “We're seeing pretty robust outlooks from many of our clients right now,” Stein said, particularly in the areas of product launches and thought-leadership initiatives. Browning said that after a rough three years, “We're actually growing with clients again.”
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