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Good thought starter. Does this boil down to trust? There is already a gap between client and agency when it comes to trust. Who knows better? Clients should be setting the objectives and agencies setting the execution. Both, together, should be setting the strategy. Heavy emphasis here on *should*.

To bring it down to a most basic level, we should be looking at what the market wants and finding ways to add value. As it stands now, it's more about what has proven to work in the past measured against what can be bought for the money. Even though we have these great new technologies, we're still stuck in a mindset that tells us we have to buy points against segments.

Terrific post -- there are so many dimensions to what's said here, I'm not quite sure where to focus my response! (I love that last paragraph before the headline "Agency Business.") Let me try this:

I think this post raises the issue of objectivity vs. subjectivity where passion and reality are concerned. What am I talking about? Here's an example:

Startup company X gets 100 million in funding because they have a great idea and the passion and drive to get it off the ground. As the company starts to grow, though, more C-level voices get involved in defining the company's DNA. More agencies get hired to do the work that needs to be done.

On the company side, the initial passion and drive are becoming diluted. On the agency side, you have a variety of individuals who are each looking at the company through their own prism.

But let's for a moment assume that agency Y really *gets* it. I mean, *really* gets it. They look at this company, and they have the knowledge, the passion, the experience and the clarity of thinking to drive that sucker forward in a big way.

Objectively speaking, agency Y's approach may in fact be the right thing for the company. BUT: Realistically, the company will never relinquish to the agency the power to determine its future.

"I started this company, I know better" says the C-level exec who was there before the beginning. "I'm a CMO, they're just an agency, I know better" says the marketing poohbah who feels that being in the building every day equals a deeper understanding of what needs to be done.

So: Subjective judgments that "I know better than anyone else" get in the way of the objective reality that no, you don't, this person or agency over here actually knows better.

Let's complicate it further: Agency Y has a great strategy for moving forward (plus all the passion, yada yada) ... but so does Agency Z -- and that strategy is 180 degrees removed from what Y is suggesting.

Is it even possible to make an objective assessment of which strategy, Y or Z, is better?

Ultimately I think it all comes down to clarity of vision -- which needs to be communicated from the top down.

Know who you are as a company -- and express that clearly and without room for doubt or reinterpretation.

Know where you want to go as a company -- and express that clearly and without room for doubt or reinterpretation.

If, as a company, you've hired smart and passionate people who understand who the company is and where it needs to go, then all you really need to do is step aside, get out of the way, and let them do what they do best.

Correct them if they veer off course and praise them when they move the ball forward. And through it all, keep the lines of communication open ... with clarity and simplicity, of course!

Valeria,

Another excellent post.

Ad agencies have described themselves and act as a client's marketing "partner." What I find is that clients want "leadership" not partnership. In one of the most revolutionary times in advertising/communications, most ad agencies are way behind the curve when it comes to even understanding social media.

Agencies can demonstrate their understanding and expertise in new media by the way they utilize it for themselves. Using the same tools they would recommend their clients use and practice what they preach.

Michael Gass
www.fuelingnewbusiness.com

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