What Andy Murray Teaches Agencies About Client Partnerships

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By Fiona Scott, Managing Director, PSONA

The dream team is back. With coach Ivan Lendl once again by his side, Andy Murray was crowned Wimbledon champion for the second time this Sunday.

Despite parting from Murray in 2014, Lendl had been drafted in to turbocharge the tournament alongside Murray’s permanent coach Jamie Delgado. It’s anticipated Lendl will then assume his previous part-time arrangement of working with the tennis star for 20 to 25 weeks a year.

Agencies, which are themselves expert support teams for brands, have much to learn from Murray’s exceptionally high standards and lively approach to maintaining his own coaching squad.

With agencies under pressure to perform with greater speed, agility and commercial acumen, while achieving award-winning levels of creativity and innovation, traditional client-agency relationships no longer work. Instead of being left to it for weeks on end until they crack the brief, agencies need to become challengers and evolve their offerings at breakneck speed to ensure clients receive agile creativity.

This is because clients are struggling to keep pace with what consumers want. Brand lifespans have contracted from 61 years in 1959 to just 18 years today, according to Yale University’s Richard Foster. Dot-coms are planning their tenure around 10 years at most.

A recent study from creative agency Southpaw also found some of the biggest grocery brands of recent times, including Cadbury’s, Birds Eye and Heinz, have become on average 10% less relevant to consumers in the past five years. This figure might seem small, but its impact on global revenue will be colossal.

This is something that can be seen in every sector. We only need look at BHS and Austin Reed to understand what can happen to even the most monolithic retailers if they don’t keep up with the times.

In or out?

As brands look to seriously up their game, smart-thinking agencies are embracing it as an opportunity to reinvigorate their services and stimulate competition.

One trend shaking up the agency landscape is the hired in-house team. These champions of agility, collaboration and cost efficiency can deliver exceptional work for clients. However, the danger of in-house solutions is that they execute effectively to a brief, but do not focus on breaking the mould.

Just as Murray rehired Lendl, clients hire agencies to be challenged and inspired. Rather than relying solely on the hired in-house trend, agencies need to let clients have their cake and eat it. They need to offer – and constantly modify – an array of solutions that are packaged to each client’s continually evolving needs.

The only constant is change

We know that for clients today the only constant is change – and agencies need to practice what they preach. Only by allowing the challenge of delivering creativity at speed to develop into a tangible approach will agencies ensure their clients are equipped to succeed long-term.

At PSONA, we’ve curated a portfolio of on-site and externally-based client solutions that ensure our services are both challenging and balanced. We spend time with each client to find out exactly what their needs and challenges are, and build services around it.

Agencies should offer teams with specialisms in every single channel, from creative and artwork to strategic and account management. Like Delgado, these teams will be responsible for delivering on day-to-day campaigns, optimising marketing activity and producing outstanding creative. These capabilities should be packaged to reflect the client’s ambition and the team should constantly work with the client to improve partnership efficiencies with no hidden agenda.

But agencies should also offer solutions that bring the Lendl effect. At PSONA, clients can call on our SWAT teams to bolster specific projects; while FLEX teams provide additional resource at busy times of the marketing calendar. For one client we upped their copywriting capabilities by 20 writers for a two-month period to deliver against an exceptional work stream.

Embracing a new ball game

Structural shake-ups create many hurdles, particularly for larger agencies for which speed and agility might not come naturally. One of the main challenges I have experienced is attracting the best people who are happy working on-site with a client, particularly if the environment is corporate. Agencies often expend vast resource creating cultures that don’t translate on-site. But embracing change and ensuring teams are frequently rotated, restructured and reinvigorated prevents this from happening.

The pace of change means that agencies and clients are set to work more closely and effectively than ever before. The only way to survive in the long-term is to continue to evolve at breakneck speed. As agencies and clients start to embrace this challenge together, the industry as a whole will start to master – and enjoy – an entirely new ball game.

Photo credit: Charlie Cowins - originally posted to Flickr as the real Andy