The Power of Long-term Relationships

Why it's time to celebrate 'old-business league tables' - where agencies have forged valued and enduring relationships with their clients

By Jeremy Lee

There are few things that are guaranteed to fire an agency up more than pitching for new business. The best-run pitches can bring teams together, create bonds and get the adrenaline pumping. And a successful pitch win can mean more money for new talent and new resources.

And yet. This is an industry that also judges itself on new-business tables a little too obsessively. We know of some agency chiefs whose bonus pots were based solely on the quantity of new business won and not on the agency's overall growth. Aside from the financial cost and emotional toll of chasing every new business opportunity, such a structure is hardly the best way to service existing clients and build partnerships.

So perhaps it's time to celebrate 'old-business tables' too, where agencies have forged valued and enduring relationships with their clients. After all, agencies also talk about building partnerships with their clients and how they want to earn a place in their boardrooms.

The power of enduring relationships was thrown into relief last week when VCCP, which marks its twentieth anniversary this year, successfully repitched for its founding client, O2. The pitch was called after the mobile network merged with Virgin Media in October 2020.

O2's relationship with VCCP is a brilliant example of the power of enduring relationships (in contrast to Virgin Media, which seemed to move its account around at almost Usain Bolt speeds in comparison). Simon Groves, Virgin Media O2's director of brand and marketing, has worked at O2 for over 20 years and therefore has strong ties to VCCP.

The importance - and value - of trusted partnerships such as these is something that we look at in more detail in the first in a series of interviews with marketers and their agency partners (see below).

Both the IPA and ISBA recognise the damage that regular, complex and costly pitches can do to both agencies and advertisers, and in January they announced the creation of the Pitch Positive Pledge, which will be launched in May during Mental Health Awareness Week. The Pledge is designed to alleviate some of these pressures.

This is progress. But better still would be celebrating more of those agencies that have built enduring partnerships with their clients by truly understanding their business challenges and using their creativity to successfully address them. We look forward to bringing you more of these stories over the coming months.

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