The Agency Client Relationship

time running out

The agency client relationship typically lasts about eighteen months, that’s from initial romancing through to the inevitable breakup. The stages and approximate lengths of time are shown on the graphic wheel below.

The agency/client relationship phase circle

From an agency new business person’s perspective it is essential to understand these phases and the opportunities (or lack of them) that they represent to the agency client relationship.


When the agency client relationship is in the honeymoon phase it is sometimes easy to think “they’re sorted, nothing doing there, move on” but wait; if you understand it is just a phase and will likely be passed through, don’t move on just yet. Asking them when they will review is perhaps a little insensitive, instead find out the following.

  • When did the relationship start and most importantly …
  • What was it about the agency that made them their first choice

This last question is especially important as it will frame any future approach.

You don’t really want to meet these guys just yet as it will likely be a waste of time and maybe even a little embarrassing for all concerned.


After the first three months or so of the agency client relationship it is possible that another agency may well turn the eye of the client and they may be prepared to meet up to flirt a little, but it is unlikely to lead to anything more at this stage; however, it can be good to get on their radar, just don’t expect anything more than a peck on the cheek and a ‘lovely to meet you, let’s keep in touch’ and if you push for anything more you may well get your face slapped (metaphorically of course!!).

So – good to meet, long-term prospect.


Nine months into the agency client relationship, things have gone from boring to frustrating. Same old same old. Nothing new. SURPRISE ME FOR GOODNESS SAKES!! you can almost hear the poor client screaming.

At this stage you may well get the feeling that you’re onto a good thing here and they may well promise you a brief; they may even GIVE you a brief.

But don’t kid yourself; although they may well be making the right sounds, it may still be too early for them to make the break altogether and your endeavours might well fall flat and end up with non-returned phone calls and platitudes until everything goes cold again.

On the other-hand, you may well get a small project to test you out from the more promiscuous clients!


Once the client has decided it’s time to move on from the existing agency client relationship¬† but hasn’t fired or put their incumbent on notice is the best time to do your serious dating. Wait until the new brief has been written and you could be last to the party. Try to be one of the agencies they meet before they’ve written the new brief but once they’ve definitely decided to break with the incumbent.


Once they are dating, it is usually too late. This is the time they’ve drawn up a short-list of potential replacements and are meeting them, doing the chemistry meetings and maybe (if the agencies are very unlucky!) asking them to ‘pitch’ for the business.

Although it is possible to gatecrash the party you may not get a fair crack of the whip. On the other hand, sometimes the late arrival, with less to lose and a gung-ho attitude can be the life and soul of the party and run off with the prize.

So. Try to identify where in the relationship wheel the client is with the incumbent and manage your expectations according would be our advise.