Agency PerformanceAgency SearchCultural FitMarketing and Advertising

Why do our (best) Agency Partners Sometimes Disappoint us?

Three client-agency challenges & solutions to work better together

Dog gone it. We want our relationships with our agency partners to be great, and result in great work.

Sometimes they don’t. (Sigh.) Delays happen, complexity sets in, frustrations grow.

Discover the reasons why. Then beat the dog days of summer with fresh, practical solutions to refresh and renew.

TRUTH: Marketing leaders have big appetites to get a lot done, and fast. They look to their current agencies to address emerging problems, act on insights and work to impact brand recovery. Agency partners respond with “Sure, we can do that” with best of intentions. It’s in their DNA and they believe they can (or that they’ll go figure things out).

Good news. The marketing and advertising industry has become increasingly specialized to meet the demands of new marketing models and media channels. Niche agencies and experts exist across all disciplines, equipped with proven skills, turnkey systems and relevant services. There likely is a just right resource for the task at hand, we just need to find them.


  1. It’s OK. Marketing leaders can and should ask current agency partners How they intend to complete various requests. This is a foundational conversation about capability and capacity.
  2. Marketing leaders can encourage their current partners to bring in the right talent and third party partners to get the best work done. Fluid talent models are today’s norm.
  3. Marketing leaders can also own up to continual changes and additions to scope, and compensate their agencies accordingly. Agency partners will be grateful and more responsive to prioritizing staffing to meet clients’ evolving demands.
  4. Agencies can also own up to what they are best at doing, and collaboratively help their clients identify the just-right expanded team of resources to deliver on goals.

TRUTH: Marketers and brand leaders wake up every day with more ideas. They look to their agencies to set things in motion. Yet ad agencies often fall short on client expectations for speed, agility and support. Most agencies assume they need to interpret and add value to every client request. Sometimes a client simply needs something done fast, if only to test and learn. Forward momentum is key.


  1. Marketing leaders can flag project requests made to the agency to better differentiate between higher value projects (those that merit an awesome strategic brief) and those (often digital marketing/media) real-time adjustments that are executional in nature.
  2. Project management systems should clarify fast-track projects and priorities in this way.
  3. Agency can organize staff into Think vs Do teams to better match the speed of client pacing.
  4. Agencies that provide the optimal three choices (on just about everything) will accelerate client feedback and internal decision making. Options upfront reduce the frustration from endless rounds of revisions that wear us down.

TRUTH: Companies hire advertising and marketing agencies based on stated capabilities, attractive proposals and optimistic promises. Sometimes best attempts to improve working with ad agencies doesn’t result in meaningful change. Weeks or months go by; parties seem burdened by a state of muddled compromise.

Advertiser-agency relationship funk stems from inherent differences in organizational values that shape ways of working together. Cultural constraints can present headwinds and drain team energy.

Everyone loves to be a part of a team that runs on positive vibes, empowered by successful outcomes. Everyone dreads working on teams that feel like oil and water, where people just see the world differently.

Our thirty years of consulting experience tell us Great relationships precede great work. Healthy team practices starts with CMOs understanding their organizational core values, and leaning into those that shape the kind of team culture they want. Clarity around our cultural values guides decision-making and moves us forward.

Cultural fit with our agency partners influences a majority of what marketers do; how people come together, how brand work is designed, how investment decisions are made and how successful outcomes are realized.

-Lorraine Stewart, ROJEK Consulting


  1. Be attentive. Invest the time to build cultural capital and tighten alignment across your agency partner set. Discover, amplify and act on what really matters to people today.
  2. Be courageous. Recognize when cultural disconnects fuel frustration to the point it undermines the quality of life. Sometimes change can and should be made.
  3. Be intentional. Companies can hire agencies (and agencies can choose clients) where cultural connection is front and center. Cultural fit is no longer just a nice idea but a measurable, data-driven part of the agency search and management process.
  4. Be clear. Agencies can better articulate their own cultural values. Doing so will differentiate themselves in market, attract the talent and the clients that fit best with their own culture. Those companies that will want to fully engage with them, value their people and their work.

In a values-driven culture, leaders consciously create the team culture they want to experience and actively manage their cultural capital. To this end, they remove the influence of previous groups on the culture by carrying out structural realignment. This involves making sure that the values in the culture are fully integrated into the organization’s systems, policies and partner relationships.


TRUTH:Everything Good Starts with Cultural Fit.™