Creative agencies rely on freelancers, which is why the freelance community is focused on the hard-working, fast-moving sexy industry, but there's little focus on how to work with agency when you're client-side.
I've been in this industry for a long time. And although I've always been client-side, I've worked with all the agency big boys, from Ogilvy to Havas and some of the smaller players.
They're all impressive. They always say yes. And their charm is undeniable. But I found over the years, not only are they the go-to people for expertise and the high-profile projects, they're also the first to get the blame when the work isn't good.
More often than not, teams will bitch about the agency. Either what they've produced isn't good enough. They were disappointed by the pitch. It needed lots of iterations. It was full of technical errors. They were late delivering. They cost a fortune.
The truth is, more often than not, they're badly managed. The brief (if it exists) is woolly. You can put all your money on the objective field saying, "to increase sales". They're either overly prescriptive or don't give any information.
It's no secret, the better the brief, the better the result.
All briefs must have what the problem you're trying to solve is, what the objective of the campaign/project is and what channels are you working with.
Working with an agency should be fully collaborative. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and express your ideas or ask questions. The more the agency knows about the business and proposition, the better the output.
On the flip-side, I know it's money, but agencies should be empowered to say no to ideas and briefs. Sometimes an agency just isn't the way forward or an approach that echoes the old-school, institutionalised way of doing things.
If the relationship with your agency is fraught and you're not getting what you need from them, sit down and have a frank conversation. You'll find that it's the way they're being managed and not necessarily the talent.
Also, don't run to an agency to fix an unsolvable problem - it's a bit like Brexit, there is no answer that will make everyone happy, so what makes you think outsourcing it will work?
The biggest bit of advice; give them your customer insight and listen to their industry insight. They don't know your customers, if you give them a persona or demographic, tell them what the feeling is, involve them in customer journey mapping, the more they know the bigger and more impressive the ideas.
Basically, treat them like they're one of the team, don't just throw something you're not sure about or you don't know what you want over the fence and expect the Sistine Chapel.