Smarter budgets, Happier Clients, Happier Agencies


by Rupert Foy, Group Deputy Managing Director

Agencies are facing a transformative phase. AI looms over the creative department, threatening to deliver upon mood boards, billboards and video content – if only it can get the hands right (see a recent attempt at an AI beer advert here). Harrowing stuff indeed. But, in all seriousness, agency leaders need to realise that clients have the right to demand a smarter use of budget. Clients know their worth and the value of their expenditure. Bad clients and bad agencies look at this as an ongoing battle for budget, splitting hairs, devaluing hours and leaving a bad taste in collective mouths. Sadly, the real victim, inevitably, will be the work.

So how do we combat this? Through true collaboration. I don’t mean inviting clients to the office for a drawn-out brainstorm and a piss-up. I mean by highlighting and utilising the best of both clients and agencies. If a post can be created by an internal marketing team, let them do it, and take it out of your budget. This frees up agency creative department budgets to work on the highly specialised craft that comes from years of expertise and outsider thinking.

At the River Group, a number of our accounts are collaborations between client marketing/creative teams and agency staff. This model allows for Hero content to be created by River and, through smart commissioning, supplementary Hub and Hygiene content is produced by internal marketing. Not only does this result in a seamless campaign for our clients, it also builds bonds between teams, harnessing the creative power of the agency with the experienced nuance of the client team.

A great example of this is River’s work with Boots on its podcast Taboo Talk. Launched in 2021 and hosted by Vogue Williams, Taboo Talk was devised to cover the more awkward, embarrassing or serious parts of everyday life. The whole podcast is shot and recorded at River HQ, in our podcasting studio, and regularly surprises me with the insight, challenges and downright boldness of the content that is produced. The podcast and recording are Hero assets produced by River, as podcasting/videography experts, which are then handed to our Boots clients for social cutdowns, website collateral and digital assets – of which there are many in a 30- to 45-minute podcast. Not only does this ‘sweat’ the assets, it also allows the internal team at Boots to leverage them against future business priorities long after the recording. That said, the podcast as a standalone asset isn’t doing too badly, with over a quarter of a million downloads.

In summary, agencies that fear work-sharing and collaboration are sealing their own tombs, and here at the River Group we’d much rather stay above ground arm in arm with our clients, sharing the work and success.

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