By Deborah Malone, Founder of The Internationalist
Jared Belsky, Founder & CEO of Acadia, the recently launched and highly successful Atlanta-based agency, has been on both the client and agency sides during his career. He believes that marketers often are trained in every aspect of their business except managing their ad agencies. His latest book, You Get the Agency You Deserve, offers both practical and emotional lessons on how to improve client-agency relationships.
He says, “Marketers are unwittingly causing their own destruction. The 18-month average agency tenure triggers an economic destruction that few executives appreciate or understand how to solve.
He considers this “both the single biggest problem and opportunity confronting an embattled marketing profession.” It is also points to why the average CMOs lasts just two years in their job.
Interestingly, Jared Belsky interviewed 300 marketing executives as background for his latest book. Not a single person said they were trained in anaging agency relationships. However, 86% admitted to wanting to do this part of their jobs better.
He also believes that there are only two types of client accounts at an agency. “There are accounts where A+ players want to run to and work on, and then there are accounts where people raise their hands by the minute to rotate off. It's that simple. The greatest velocity of work gravitates toward the best clients. The best and most thoughtfully written contracts and staffing models create the best work for clients.”
In You Get the Agency You Deserve: 20 Practical and Emotional Lessons to Maximize Your Agency and Partner Relationship, Jared Belsky outlines a plan for activating how agencies can be a transformative asset for any brand. It starts with understanding how to engage in a SOW/MSA negotiation-- so it doesn't destroy trust, shifting from coercive to curious leadership, viewing agencies as critical support, and focusing on understanding the source of different perspectives and ideas. Other shifts involve starting with a systematic, two-way onboarding and setting agencies up to collaborate for the good of the brand rather than compete for their own P&Ls.
To learn more from Jared Belsky about how marketers can maintain stronger relationships with their agencies, watch the video interview on Internationalist Marketing TV (IMTV).
In our conversation, we discuss the following:
- The title of your book is a popular expression in the industry, but often used as a “throw-away line” rather than a suggestion on how to do things better. Why write this now? Doyou think that client-agency relationships are at a low point? Or more confusing given somany technological and social shifts?
- You’ve been on the client side and the agency side, but your book suggests that fewmarketers are trained in managing agency relationships. Why?
- Your book offers 20 Practical and Emotional Lessons on how to create betterpartnerships. What is #1 on your list or the fi rst place where marketers should begin?
- You discuss many specifi cs-- from the impact of budget size to who gets to work forwhich brand. And you provide examples. Plus, you emphasize that clients “shouldn’t tellthe agency the answer but share the challenge.” Talk about this…
- You also interviewed 300 marketers for the book. Can you share some of the insights orconversation excerpts that stood out most dramatically to you?
- You are Founder and CEO of a relatively new Atlanta-based agency—Acadia, started inthe summer of 2021. Acadia has had an extraordinary rate of growth—in the fi rst sixmonths, 100 employees and four acquisitions. Acadia’s description is also “client centric”as A Modern Digital Agency Obsessed with Your Growth. Is that why Acadia is sosuccessful?
- One of your recommendations is to “Treat Your Agency as an Extension of YourTeam.” I’m curious, given the current trend toward in-house agencies, do you believe thatmarketers are equipped to create their own in-house agencies? Or, if clients take youradvice about making an agency part of their team, do they need an in-house agency?
- You’ve also been quoted as saying, “Therapy is cheaper than divorce.” Do you offeryour clients “therapy” on how to be a better client? Or do you advocate for independentagency relationship consulting?
As a 28-year-old, Jared Belsky joined the Coca-Cola company where he was rigorously trained inall aspects of brand management and navigating the company-- except for how to manage theagency. He admits to making “every mistake from bad briefi ngs to bad behavior” in managing a$10 million budget and 10-person Starcom Mediavest team. His insight on the client side, andlater the agency side, led him to see how marketers can get more from their agency relationships.
Throughout this career, Jared Belsky has been honored as one of the industry’s top leaders andoriginal thinkers, including an Internationalist Agency Innovator. Before starting Acadia, he wasCEO of 360i, a one-thousand person digital marketing agency named to the Ad Age A-List eighttimes. He has also been honored as one of Campaign's "40 Over 40," Ad Age’s “40 Under 40,”and Adweek’s Media All-Star for multiple years.
He also serves on the board of EIG (Emory Impact Investing Group), which facilitates grants toentrepreneurs unable to get typical loans.
The Internationalist is dedicated to the reinvention of marketing by connecting the peopleand ideas in international marketing, advertising and media through content, insights, case studies and peer-to-peer marketer Think Tanks, Awards and Summits-- all to better serve the needs of this community. Marketer driven, The Internationalist is now in its 20th year, and was founded by former Ad Age and CNBC executive, Deborah Malone. Originally created as a trade publication, The Internationalist continues to serve an audience of 20,000+ with online content, podcasts, and video.