Clients and agencies should be in it for the long-term, says BT's Gavin Patterson

Cilla Snowball and Gavin Patterson discuss their successful agency-client relationship
Cilla Snowball and Gavin Patterson discuss their successful agency-client relationship

Gavin Patterson, BT's newly-appointed chief executive, says that strong long-term client-agency relationships are "absolutely critical" for effective marketing.

Speaking at the IPA’s Adaptathon event at Altitude London, for which Marketing is media partner, Patterson was joined on stage by AMV BBDO chief executive Cilla Snowball.

The Adaptathon’s host for the day, broadcast journalist Evan Davis, asked: "Do your eyes ever stray from Cilla, Gavin?"

Patterson claimed not. "We have a fantastic relationship that started before I started at BT," he said. "In the last 10 years there has been only one difficult moment. My recollection is that AMV tried to ditch us."

Snowball acknowledged that the issue was to do with conflict but was quickly resolved "because of the strong relationship".

The key thing is to ensure that marketing is not dominated by the procurement process.

Davis quizzed the duo on procurement, asking whether BT’s procurement included marketing services.

"Absolutely," Patterson said. "There’s no reason why you can’t have a strong procurement process. The key thing is to ensure that marketing is not dominated by the procurement process – that the factors to make a decision are properly weighted and price is not the dominant factor."

Both Patterson and Snowball insisted that strong, long-term relationships benefited agency and client and that it was in an advertiser’s interest to encourage its agency to flourish.

"One of the things with relationships is that if you take a long-term perspective, an agency can attract talent to work on your business in the long-term," Patterson said. He added that that would be problematic were a client to be changing and destabilising an agency every few years.

His point was echoed by Tim Male, head of marketing at Lloyds Banking Group. "Any client would want to get as best a deal [on price negotiations] as possible," he said. "But as Gavin was saying, we are in a relationship where we want our agency to succeed as well."

Successful relationships

Ian Priest, IPA president and founding partner of VCCP, announced the launch of the Adaptathon back in June at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival.

The day saw a variety of clients and their agencies, including John Lewis and Adam & Eve/DDB, taking to the stage to discuss what made their relationships so successful.

Dominic Grounsell, marketing director of personal at RSA and ISBA chair, and Stephen Maher, CEO-founder of Maher Bird Associates and chair of the Marketing Society, joined Davis on stage to discuss how agency-client relationships should be long-term, and not subject to constant pitches.

"I don’t think many clients enjoy pitching," Grounsell said. "The risk to managing your organisation and reputation is huge. If you choose the wrong agency partner in a pitch then it reflects poorly on you.

"We agree with Ian [Priest] that pitching is not something that you do willy-nilly, off the cuff, it should be considered."

Commenting on the IPA’s inaugural Adaptathon, Priest said: "It’s great to see not just agency people here, but clients, intermediaries and media – a whole cross-section.

"The lifeblood of the industry is creativity," he added. "Adapt for better commercial creativity. But if we adapt on our own as agencies, we are not going to be as effective. What we’re trying to do is evolve.

"There are a lot of things we’re doing right. But we need to evolve. Why? Look at us as an industry, we’ve pretty much run the same model for decades. At the heart of this is reshaping the business model. But how do we do that?"

Yesterday’s event (3 October) was the first of five Adaptathon’s to take place over 18 months. Other speakers included John Kearon, chief executive of research firm Brainjuicer, and Professor Julie Hay, who addressed delegates on how psychological insights could help nurture better relationships between agency and client.

Visit our dedicated IPA Adaptathon page


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus


Outdoor Campaign of the Month: Just Eat
Sponsored feature
Oasis #springasmile digital campaign gets people doing good deeds
Coca-Cola: 'Don't approach bloggers with a fait accompli'
Tesco CMO Matt Atkinson: 'It is so important not to stereotype mothers'
Why behavioural economics can help brands to tell a great story
McDonald's gives Ronald a new look ahead of global 'Fun times' social media push
In pictures: BrewDog opens first craft beer shop BottleDog for 'beer aficionados'
The language of content and how to find an agency that is fluent
Facebook ad revenue leaps $1bn as it invests in targeting
Malteser or Maltesers? Mars takes Hershey trademark dispute to court
Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Building Partnerships: why collaboration is key
Sponsored feature
It's not just mums setting consumer trends in 2014, says Netmums founder, it's dads too
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
Why #NoMakeUpSelfie should inspire charities to cash in on social vanity
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Building Partnerships: Four ways to make brand relationships work
Sponsored feature
Sponsor TVPlayer - the UK's fastest growing free live TV service
Sponsored feature
Blogging: how to make friends and influence people
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
5 things marketers need to know about extreme consumers
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015