Multiple Agencies? Avoid Multiple Headaches.


If you’re like many marketers with more than one agency working on your business, chances are you’ve had to deal with any number of headaches defining mandates, responsibilities, contracts and meaningful collaboration between competitive agencies.

Surprisingly, the number and type of headaches aren’t always a reflection of the number of agencies on a client’s roster. While some marketers manage to juggle many agencies with relative ease, others have found themselves exasperated managing responsibilities between just two.

Whether you’re juggling two or two hundred agencies (and yes, some marketers do have that many…), the issues that have marketing teams reaching for the Advil are generally the same:


  • Roles and responsibilities. It may sound like a no-brainer to have pre-defined roles and responsibilities during the initial pitch process, subsequent contract negotiations and then kick-off. But the reality is, things are rarely that cut and dry and in today’s marketing arena there are immense grey areas between strategy, creative, production and media.
  • Touch points. In the same way that roles and responsibilities may not be cut and dry, each agency may need to liaise with multiple client-side resources in the fulfillment of their duties. Whether it’s procurement, legal, financial services, communications, IT or any other number of departments, internal teams need to be prepared for liaison and workload from each agency on your roster.
  • Turf wars. Back to roles and responsibilities? Not always. Chances are that any agency you hire is going to come up with fresh insights, original ideas or new solutions that may infringe on other agency parameters. What do you do? Shut them down? Hear them out? Push it forward? Upset other incumbents? Where’s the Advil?
  • Internal alignment. How well aligned internal teams are across brands and initiatives can also play a key role in the efficiency and effectiveness of each agency. Whether it’s budget issues, briefing thoroughness and consistency or perceived organizational priority, marketer alignment – or lack thereof – can cause unwelcome agency ‘neediness’ or internal friction.
  • Evaluation. When you consider the challenges around budgets, roles, responsibilities, touch points and internal liaison, how do you conduct meaningful evaluations for each agency to determine effectiveness?
  • Collaboration. Perhaps the ultimate test of a truly effective agency is how well they work and liaise with competitive agencies within the same roster. No matter how great they may be functioning in isolation, all agencies have to find ways to work with others for the greater good of their respective clients. Creating a culture of collaboration – and capitalizing on it – can be a full-time job by itself.

Those are just a half dozen examples of headache inducing problems arising from more than one agency on client rosters. If you’re nodding your head reading this or contemplating adding additional agencies to help manage new or growing business challenges and beginning to wonder what you should do – there are some tried and trusted solutions that can help. Here are some examples of how we’ve helped clients avoid some of those unnecessary headaches:


  • Statement of Work. Coming up with a statement of work for each agency is a no brainer, right? Well it should be, except that many marketers are too light on the detail and don’t contemplate how to manage the ‘grey areas’ where many agencies often intersect. Scopes of work should be as detailed as possible and define mechanisms to manage grey areas, while also defining ‘go’ and ‘no-go’ activities.
  • Pick a leader. Irrespective of the number of agencies you have on your roster, marketers should make it clear who’s their preferred ‘lead’. Marketers and agencies often ‘assume’ their brand or ‘AOR’ agency is the lead agency but, depending on your business, it doesn’t have to be that way. Marketers should seriously consider who should lead and make it known to all agencies on their roster.
  • Agency Playbook. One of the most powerful tools we’ve created for marketers is an ‘agency playbook’ that delineates roles and responsibilities for each agency, and details procedures for out-of-scope initiatives, ‘eureka’ idea moments, collaboration between agencies as well as production of work initiated by other agencies.
  • Single Brief. Brand, digital or media briefs issued in isolation are asking for trouble but some marketers refuse to adopt them. Why? Territorial challenges, weak team briefing skills or misconceptions there won’t be overlap impact often stand in the way. Whatever the cause may be, training or stronger collaboration mandates can help.
  • Open Source. And speaking of collaboration, what collaboration tools do you use – or request that your agencies adopt? Creating a repository for briefing, holistic project status and (wait for it…) results, can go a long way to aligning agencies around what and how your business is really doing.


If you’ve got multiple agencies working on your business, you can avoid multiple headaches by identifying potential or existing challenges, and implementing some headache limiting solutions.

However many agencies you’re trying to manage, this is just one less problem you should be worrying about. Put down the Advil. And pick up the phone. We can help. (Really).

Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

Photo: JoshBerglund19