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Clients want agency work done faster. How can you match their need for speed?


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

October 16, 2023 | 10 min read

CMOs want work delivered yesterday. How should agencies set themselves up to meet that expectation?

Low exposure photograph of cars in a tunnel

Clients want to see their agencies moving faster. / Unsplash

Brand marketers want a faster, more agile service experience from their agency suppliers – but according to a recent survey on brand-media agency partnerships, most say they’re not getting it.

Now, clients wanting work delivered yesterday isn’t a new issue. And they’ve often paused to question why they speak to so many non-creative staffers and executives to solve straightforward creative problems. But with new threats to the agency business model on the horizon (generative AI, consultancies, in-housing – pick your poison), ad shops can’t afford to ignore these gripes.

That means they need to meet that need for speed and ensure the client sees them doing it. We wanted to find out how agencies across the industry manage that, so we reached out to a few.

How do you solve a problem like… meeting clients’ need for speed?

Richard Moloney, managing partner, AMV BBDO: “The tech industry may laugh at this over-simplification but agility for us is about trust and accountability across a full team. To move at the speed our tech clients especially demand, everyone in the team holds a client relationship. By working tightly with clients, not through account management, creatives, strategists and producers move faster.

“A clear vision has to be set and communication has to be strong. Increasingly we are working in a fixed/flex model. A tight leadership team sets the vision and leads the work. A dedicated delivery team ensures consistency through execution. Flexible talent is then brought in based on the needs of the project - that can be locally or globally. It means account management can partner and lead clients rather than managing the process. And when it’s done well, the clients feel it and we see that reflected in regular relationship reviews.”

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Jack Williams, EMEA growth lead, Acne London (part of Deloitte Digital): “The challenge most businesses face is that although they have the right tech in place to speed up processes, getting the most out of it is still a struggle. To do that requires a deep understanding of how the technology works and how it can be properly embedded into the organization from an engineering and operational point of view, before even thinking about the creativity we fill it with.

“Creativity and transformation must work as one and brands must find a partner that can speak the language of experience – with humanity, creativity and emotional understanding, whilst also being able to talk the language of transformation – with business understanding, data and technology.”

jess davey

Jessica Davey, senior vice-president of client services APAC, Media.Monks: “In this increasingly volatile landscape, agility and meaningful performance are more critical than ever. Both agencies and clients need to ensure their processes and systems are fit for purpose in a more responsive era. Media.Monks is a digital-first business, so our creative solutions are always underpinned by real-time data and performance tracking to ensure that we deliver impact across the board. We have very clear and tangible ways of working with clients through performance dashboards and tracking and good old-fashioned communication like daily or weekly syncs and check-ins with the working teams.

“We don’t think in terms of AOR or legacy remunerations models, we see ourselves as Partners of Record with MSAs and scopes that are connected to business outcomes and performance rather than just delivery. A modern client/agency relationship requires more than just a contract of deliverables, it must have shared accountability and success as its foundation.”

Jeremiah Knight, chief operating officer, Saatchi & Saatchi: “You need to know where you’re willing to compromise. Ultimately, if you make work just to demonstrate ‘speed & agility’ but the work doesn’t solve a business problem or the quality is sub-par, those can also lead to a review.

“Saatchi enables world-changing originality and agility through (a) vertical expertise where teams of specialists in design, UX/UI, storytelling, and dynamic creativity, among others, are brought together to collaborate on a large project or activate as small independent units, moving at incredible pace, (b) proactive resource management to forecast the client ask and assign the task to the right team, and (c) increasing use of Generative AI for rapid comping/concepting plus the use of gen AI-powered tools like Lucy.AI that help us mine Saatchi’s historical knowledge to provide pathways to a solution.”

Amanda Morrissey, global client and brand president, iProspect: “The challenge facing agencies and brands is not just the pace of change, but rather the frequency and scale of changes. It’s easy to say the future belongs to the fast, but if you don’t tie your shoelaces and have the proper shoes, you’ll fall down.

“Marketers are continuously needing to make trade-offs between competing and conflicting areas balancing long and short term returns whilst finding those new spaces for growth where they can gain competitive advantage. What we see with our largest global clients is when we build flexibility into the service model from the outset in how we offer integrated services and solutions we can create the environment for experimentation. This builds the trust needed to move us from just being a supplier to a real partner on their growth journey.”

Luke Bozeat, chief operating officer, GroupM UK: “Clients want and need a lot from agencies, our role is to simplify an increasingly complex media market for them, because it’s much easier to be agile if you keep things simple! GroupM’s focus is to provide value by creating ways for our clients to realize maximum return from their media budget and minimize their expended effort.

“To enable this we have invested heavily in products that allow our clients to execute across multiple channels from a single entry point and optimize to clear outcomes. This focuses effort on delivering the campaign objectives and away from laborious line-by-line management. Looking ahead of course we’re embracing AI to increase our ability to react and adapt.”


Gareth Davies, chief executive officer, Leagas Delaney: “Should we be surprised by these findings? It’s hardly the first survey to surface these issues. The stark reality is that too many agencies are simply ill-equipped to deliver at the speed required to meet the needs of modern brands. Their response to a changing landscape has been more process, bigger teams and higher costs. No wonder clients are frustrated. Answers lie in technology - in particular, in the automation of marketing content. But, as many agencies are now finding, implementing it requires a willingness to change – which, incidentally, is the very same thing that their clients are asking for.”

David Pollard, vice-president, client leadership, Hanson Dodge: “It helps that we are small and independent. Independence means we get to shape the kind of agency we want to be. In our case, that means no hierarchy, no C-Suites. A flatter internal structure enables us to be nimble, flexible and move quickly. No red tape...which is especially important when there is a need to pivot, resolve financial issues, jump on topical opportunities. And proof of delivery comes from the additional assignments we win from existing clients; and the project work that transforms into ongoing client relationships.”

Emily Winterbourne, managing director, Impero: “The strange thing about our industry, particularly larger traditional agencies is that the way they work on the whole hasn’t changed that much in generations. We aim to be the antithesis of that, as many other more agile modern agencies do. Each client has a core team of account lead, strategic lead and creative. And our clients have a line into all of them. It means you can get to the answer quicker and get to better work. The fact is consumers aren’t waiting around for our output, they are out there busy consuming other people’s – the world moves too fast to wait for the slow processes of our industry to kick work out.”

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Samantha Lester, studio head, Ichi Worldwide: “The need for agencies to support a quicker turnaround is growing. We often find that lengthy stakeholder approvals on the client side can contribute significantly to delays. Our solution is to offer retained teams so that the knowledge and experience gained persists and grows with each project, removing the need for additional onboarding and enabling us to provide a more rapid response. In recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all, we’re committed to crafting custom solutions that address our clients’ specific needs.”

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