Agencies need to grow up: VCCP founder Ian Priest

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 16 September 2014

Agencies need to grow up. Less pitching, more long-term relationships and a better understanding of clients' businesses would strengthen the industry and agency margins, according to Ian Priest, the founder of VCCP and managing director of the Chime Communications Group.

Priest, also the chairman of UK industry body the IPA, who is in Sydney to launch the IPA's education programme in partnership with the Communications Council, and to speak at the agency symposium in the Hunter Valley tomorrow (17 September), said that too much attention is placed on winning new business versus servicing existing clients fully.

Speaking to AdNews ahead of the agency symposium, Priest said that there should be more celebration of long-term relationships, rather than new business wins, adding that industry awards still don't put enough weight on effectiveness, which is where agencies should be focusing.

“The job is commercial creative. That's where agencies have to grow up. We are in the commercial game to bring brilliant creativity and make it work commercially for the brand. Commercial creativity is what clients want us for. We have to grow up and understand the wider perspective of their business. They have to give us access to their people and data, and that's where you get long-term relationships.”

“Agencies are pretty bad with the amount of energy we put into pitches. We have heads of new business that are lauded but why don't we have head of retention? [Agencies should] put more effort into keeping a client and growing it. [Trade media report on the number of pitches and wins but ] I'd like to see more celebration of long-term relationships and effectiveness, than pitches,” he said.

He offered the example of Volkswagen's 50 year relationship with DDB globally, adding that the advertising and brand work has played a part in the brands success. The VW account in Australia is currently up for pitch.

Priest reckons agency relationships would endure longer and be more productive if as well as a financial and contract, clients and agencies produced a formal “relationship contract” that outlines how they parties who will work together.

“After a pitch you go through a honeymoon phase, it's all exciting but there are assumptions in place. The more open you are about how you’re actually going to work together, the better it normally works. Too often it's assumed. Good agencies do it naturally, but making it a standard, best practice process will improve things. If you put into writing a proper way of working, that's how you get longer relationships.

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