by Ann Nurock (@annnurock) When we eventually come out of this lockdown, consumers and brands will behave differently and communications agencies need to be ready to adjust to this different world. Here are some key issues currently facing clients, and how agencies will need to respond.

For eight years, I’ve been conducting the Radar survey which measures the health of client/agency relationships and provides actionable solutions for corporate clients and agencies of all disciplines. Recently, I felt the need to present these insights and learnings to the industry and, to provide a more-global view, I also researched some of the best creative agencies globally (ie Droga5, David Miami, BBDO New York and Wieden+Kennedy) to understand what they’re doing to succeed.


A very meaningful quote came from David Droga, who, when asked why Droga5 was so successful, stated that they “care beyond the brief”. It’s this caring that is ‘out of scope’ and creates relationships that can weather many challenges and deliver great work.

The agencies that don’t have these trusting relationships deliver work that is vanilla. They’ve lost their courage and this has resulted in 89% of people ignoring advertising (Forrester Research).

Needs such as critical thinking, problem-solving and relevance (among others) also don’t change and there are now additional considerations agencies need to recognise in this “new normal” world: the need for more authenticity, kindness and delivering real value to clients and brands.

Changed channels

The client/agency interaction has altered and the channels have changed. Microsoft Teams and Zoom are the new meetings, and agility has never been so important. One of the benefits (and there aren’t many) that should come out of this tumultuous time is that we should move from a “selfie” world of “me” to a kinder world of “we” — a world of shared humanity where community and collaboration are crucial and where purpose has never been so vital.

In terms of client challenges, one of the biggest is the level of competency among account management. Clients feel that middle, and even some senior, account managers are too transactional. They don’t understand their clients’ business and, as a result, don’t have a point of view. They’re not providing critical thinking or problem-solving. They don’t stop and ask: “Why?”

Additionally, there’s too much reliance on emails and WhatsApp messages, which reduces the amount of talk/face-time, and this is detrimental to building a trusting, meaningful relationship.

Work closely

Every single great relationship I encounter (and there are many) are those where the agencies work closely with their clients, be it on co-creating briefs, discussing issues or simply having a deep understanding of their business.

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On reviewing these insights and many others, I launched my presentation entitled “Future-Proof Your Agency — What Clients Want” five weeks ago, and the bookings came in fast and furiously, but so did covid-19 and everything has been postponed. So, like the rest of the world, I’ve had time to stop and think, and the opportunity to relook at and adapt this presentation to also cover the needs of clients in a post-covid-19 world and how agencies need to adapt.

So, I’m really excited to be launching “Future-Proof Your Agency in the Post-COVID World. What clients want” this coming Monday, 20 April 2020. It will include all the key insights from eight years of Radar, global learnings from the best in the business and the requirements to adapt to the “new normal”. It can take the form of a 90-minute presentation or workshop, via Zoom/Microsoft Teams  or in person (after lockdown). Interested agencies and marketers may email me on for further details and bookings.

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Ann NurockAnn Nurock (@annnurock) spent 25+ years in the advertising industry, working on some of the biggest global and local brands in her role as CEO of Grey South Africa, followed by president and CEO of Grey Canada. In 2011, she chose to return to South Africa and open the Africa office of Relationship Audits and Management, a global consultancy that measures and optimises business relationships, focusing on the marketing services industry. For over eight years, she’s been conducting her Radar survey with 15 corporate clients and over 60 agencies of all disciplines.

This MarkLives #CoronavirusSA special section contains coverage of how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and its resultant disease, covid-19, is affecting the advertising, marketing and related industries in South Africa and other parts of Africa, and how we are responding. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page. Opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive.

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