Joint adventure at agency forum

This year’s EAAA conference was rather more daring than usual. Agencies and clients made presentations in tandem – and the result was revealing.

All too often, advertising industry conferences highlight sharp differences in perspective between agencies and clients on a range of predictable issues.

So it was refreshing to find the European Association of Advertising Agencies (EAAA) successfully adopting a new, constructive and imaginative format for its annual conference – held in Copenhagen last month – based on the theme of “Adding value to the client-agency partnership”.

Instead of inviting a series of individual speakers to address the conference, the EAAA arranged for each presentation to be made jointly by a senior client company representative and their advertising agency counterpart.

In this way, the audience gained valuable insights into the benefits of clients and agencies working more closely together across national borders.

The benefits were clearly demonstrated by a series of case histories describing the evolution of such partnerships. The speakers provided a flow of practical ideas and suggestions on how to enhance the effectiveness of client/agency collaboration to the advantage of both sides.

An impressive list of multinational client companies participated in these presentations, including Carlsberg, Gillette, Henkel, McDonald’s, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Seagram, Tuborg and Whirlpool. The wide-ranging case histories covered between them virtually every key component of the marketing and communications process, transposed to a pan-European or global level and highlighting the special issues and challenges that must be faced and shared by both client and agency to achieve success.

It is difficult to identify and elaborate on all the ingredients required for successful client/ agency partnerships at an international operating level.

It seems clear, though, that the most successful relationships are rooted primarily in a high degree of trust, mutual professional respect and a willingness to innovate and accept the risks associated with change in a vastly enlarged and more competitive European market.

It was apparent that none of the initiatives and success stories could have been achieved without highly developed working relationships that are capable of operating effectively across now-outdated geographic boundaries.

The conference showed that such enduring partnerships are forged only when clients and agencies share a common vision and a genuine identity of interests.

Of course, it is important to address those issues and tensions which divide our industry, but they must not be allowed to obscure the fact that clients

and agencies are in business

to establish, build and defend brands.

Since this vital common purpose must increasingly be pursued on a regional or global basis, it is more than ever critical that both sides find the building blocks to strengthen and enrich a relationship that is inescapably based upon interdependence.

John Shannon is president of Grey International.

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