Researching the Researchers

By Jeremy Caplin

The relationship between advertisers & their marcomms suppliers (Creative, Media, PR) has traditionally been viewed as one of master/servant. The asymmetric nature of this situation can itself be a major cause of issues and dysfunction. The supplier will be reluctant to point out to a Client its shortcomings, even if they can have a material impact on the quality of service the supplier can provide.

The client, on the other hand, may not be aware of or open to addressing its weak points. In fact, the usual solution to issues with an agency is to simply fire it and hire a replacement. But if the client’s way of operating has not changed, isn’t it likely that the same issues will re-occur with the new agency?

So how can businesses get the maximum value from their external suppliers? And how can they avoid unnecessary supplier turnover if and when communication does break down or deep-rooted issues occur?

This is where not only research but the insights and actions from the resulting data can help. Regular evaluation of each other by both sides which are benchmarked against a large set of external data can drive meaningful performance improvement. Data (below) from over 13,850 relationship evaluations shows that both Client & Agency performance can be consistently improved over a 12 year period.


Further analysis of these Client-Agency relationship evaluations demonstrates with a staggering 99.9999% statistical confidence the co-dependence of Client and Agency performance. Put another way, it provides the quantitative proof to Ogilvy’s now 50 year old qualitative dictum “clients get the advertising they deserve”.



The data goes further to show that a Client performing at the highest level assesses its Creative Agency’s output to be 37% better than that poorer performing clients obtain. And for Media Planning there is a striking +27% differential. These are huge opportunities to maximise ROI from the $bn’s of precious marcomms funds invested through and with agency partners.

So, not only does this highlight the power of and need for a quality use of insightful, benchmarked and actionable research in this area, it begs the obvious question – what about the Research Industry and its role as supplier to major organisations? Would it not also benefit by opening itself up to kind of the scrutiny that other marcomms suppliers are doing with their clients? Would they not be able to service better their clients if they could understand the extent to which they are addressing their client’s needs and, equally importantly, have a structured & proven vehicle to feed back to those clients what they need from them to be able to service them to the highest levels?

After all, better work ultimately leads to better client retention. It also drives supplier reputation and the satisfaction generated makes talent retention just that little bit easier.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the most notably absent marcomms supplier from the process of using research as a tool to improve the quality and value of its service, is the research sector itself?


About the Author

Jeremy Caplin is the CEO of Aprais Ltd, with experience of both agency and client side management. Jeremy has held various positions at data and analytics house dunnhumby and senior marketing roles at Nestlé, Reckitt Benckiser, P&G and