AMV BBDO group CEO Cilla Snowball says long-term client/agency relationships are sustainable despite growth in project appointments

"The process of working for a client has to be one of active inheritance and not passive inheritance" according to Cilla Snowball, group chairman and group CEO of AMV BBDO.

Speaking to The Drum, Snowball questioned the growing belief in the industry that long-term relationships between agencies and clients were disappearing as more appointments are made on a project basis. She stated that the increase in the number of short-term contracts did not mean that long-term relationships with clients were unsustainable.

"No matter how long you’ve worked for a client you have to be alert and in a mindset of ‘we want to be actively selected continuously rather than passively inherited'" explained Snowball.

"If the nature of things is becoming more crowded, more project driven and more real-time then I still believe in the value of long-term relationships and that’s a competitive point of difference for an agency.

"Clients hire us to understand their consumers better than anyone else and to develop outstanding work and I want to do that for the long term because it doesn’t make sense to scattergun our efforts across lots of clients, doing one-off projects for them," she continued. "We want to build long-term relationships that create business building ideas. Providing the mindset is of selection and not passive inheritance, then you can deliver, but we all know that just because you’ve had a client for ten or 15 years, doesn’t guarantee them for the next five or ten years."

Snowball expressed her view that the average length of the client/agency relationship was currently "really low" at around four-and-a-half years and that, should the trend towards project appointments continue, that number is likely to slip lower.

"Agencies have got to decide if they’re in it for the long term, even if they’re working on a lot of projects, and that commercially the more you know about a business and you understand what works and what doesn’t within that business – the more you understand a brand and the better that work will be. Striking lucky on a one off is quite unlikely, so it’s in building and developing, building big and failing small, that we will build our relationships," she explained.

"The challenge for us in advertising and marketing is piecing together effectiveness from all project areas and all channels and having a consistent measurement template that we can work from and evaluate so that it’s not all in bits," continued Snowball, who added that she understood the majority of CMOs felt that they have too much information being fed into them.

"We’re not going to die of data starvation, we’re at risk of drowning in data while trying to pull it together in a cohesive fashion."

Her comments followed a session held by the IPA at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, where the organisation discussed the new ADAPT strategy being introduced by president Ian Priest.

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