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Do you love to hate your agency?

Chief Digital officer


All too often the relationship between a brand and an agency gets strained, not because of the work completed, but rather the expectations – from both sides.

It is pretty ironic that the more often than not, communication – something we do every day – lets us down. Brands fail to brief agencies correctly and agencies fail manage expectations and demand solid onboarding and briefs from the client, resulting in disappointment on both ends.

The perfect relationship between an agency and brand does exist and it doesn’t only occur when the agency likes the product or service from said brand or the account manager at the agency smiles and says yes to everything the brand demands. Yes – a relationship between a brand and agency won’t be pitch-perfect every day, but for the most part, if both sides expectations are clear, working with an agency should yield amazing results that both the brand and the agency can be proud of.

Remember, this is a partnership and partnerships work off confidence. If everything an agency does for the brand is questioned and the agency spends more time justifying themselves than doing the work, not only are you wasting your money, you are failing the partnership. Likewise, an agency should make it a priority to understand the brand and the brand’s needs and should deliver work that is aligned to these needs. If an agency fails to do this, they are failing the partnership. All too often, an agency fails a brand because they feel they know best. We need to remember that this is a partnership that needs to be treated with respect, confidence and trust – it is a partnership where both parties rely on one another and should be treated as such.

Because we know not everyone is a perfect communicator, Firewater has put together a few basic steps to take, to help you form a great relationship with your agency (unless you want to start over with Firewater:-))

Pitching and briefing

Whether you are sending out a pitch for a new agency or simply briefing in new work, be sure to define the role you expect the agency to play. Be clear, detailed and specific. This will avoid misunderstandings and reverts.


When an agency and brand marry, an onboarding process should take place. This is to make sure the agency understands the brand and the brand understands the agency. All too often an agency arrives and starts fixing past issues and putting out fires – without actually having a clear priority list. The brand also needs to take the agency through past campaigns, stats, priorities in the businesses, the tone of voice and CI guide. Knowing what works and what doesn’t can only lead to early success.

If you have been with an agency for some time and have not completed an onboarding process – it is not too late! Just as some married couples renew their vows, you too, can renew the relationship and realign the goals and expectations.

The honeymoon phase

Yes – this is a thing and you need to be aware of it. As with everything, the first few months can go one of two ways. Either you’ll love each other and think everything is amazing when the reality could be far from, or you’ll think the agency simply does not get your brand and want to move before onboarding is complete. Try to remember, you have invested so much into the agency and they have invested in your brand. It takes at least six months to iron out the wrinkles and understand the problems. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch – give your agency time to adjust to your brand and your way of thinking. If they are worth their salt, the pain and suffering will be worth it in the long run.

Continual improvement

As with all relationships, there is always room for improvement – and this goes for both sides. Agencies and brands need to conduct regular agency reviews, realigning themselves and making sure the next phase of the relationship is fruitful, productive and fresh. Agencies need feedback – they need to know what is working, what has failed and what the brand is planning for the future. Without this feedback, a brand cannot expect an agency to improve or succeed.

Firewater thrives on education and wants to make sure you go into your next agency relationship with your eyes wide open. For more information about Firewater, contact us on

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