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Get the Most Out of Your Ad Agency

Instead of thinking of your advertising team as an outside vendor, treat it as a partner, argues columnist and advertising veteran Steve McKee

Few relationships in the business world are as rewarding, or as rocky, as those between advertisers and advertising agencies. There are many reasons, from the inherent subjectivity of the business, to the stereotypes portrayed in shows such as Thirtysomething and MadMen, to the generational gaps that often exist between clients and their ad firms. But one thing is certain—when the relationship goes awry, making a change (BusinessWeek.com, 8/15/07) can be an expensive proposition.

It's far better to make the marriage work. And just like real marriage, it's less important to find the right partner than it is to be the right partner. Over the course of more than two decades in the ad business I've observed a handful of client characteristics that seem to result in the best work and the happiest client-agency partnerships. I humbly offer a handful below.