New Advertising Industry Survey Reveals How Trust Between Advertising Agencies and Clients Leads to Creative Success

Ad agency RPA, in partnership with USA TODAY, conducted the survey to expose unspoken truths from ad-agency and marketing executives to help improve agency-client relationships

CANNES, France – At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, leading independent advertising agency RPA announced the results of a survey conducted in partnership with USA TODAY that reveals the connections between a trusting agency-client relationship and creative success. Results of the survey of senior advertising-agency and brand-marketing executives were unveiled by Tim Leake, RPA’s SVP of Growth and Innovation, during RPA’s Forum, “The Naked Truth,” on Independent Agency Day at the Festival.

“We partnered on this research because the topic is an important one”

The survey revealed 98% of both advertising-agency and marketing executives agreed that the best work comes when clients trust their agencies. But, while both sides see eye-to-eye on that, the survey also revealed many issues that threaten this trust, including disagreement about the role of creativity, different appetites for creative risk, a perceived lack of understanding of each other’s business, and an absence of honest and open lines of communication. A selection of survey results include:

  • 88% of marketing executives claim to speak their mind freely, even when it’s uncomfortable. But among agency leaders who frequently interact with clients, the percentage that believes this is true is only 36%.
  • Almost 2/3 of both the marketers (60.5%) and agency executives (70%) surveyed admitted they don’t share the same definition of creativity.
  • When asked how much even the best creative work could move their business, on average marketers said 26%, while agency executives said 48%.
  • 76% of agency executives say their clients are afraid to take risks.
  • A majority of marketing executives (56%) say that their agencies are more interested in “selling” them their work rather than solving their problems.

RPA’s SVP of Growth and Innovation, Tim Leake, commented on the survey results: “At RPA we’re very proud of how our long-lasting client relationships have led to award-winning creative work. We’re constantly looking for ways to make our relationships, and work, even stronger. From the results, it’s clear the industry has a trust problem, but there’s a lot that agencies, in particular, can do to earn the trust we feel we deserve.”

During the Forum, Leake shared four action steps that agencies, in particular, could take to help increase the level of trust in their relationships:
1) Focus as much on interpersonal communication as we do mass communication.
2) Work with our clients to better define and understand the evolving role of creativity.
3) Support our clients in recognizing the distinction between “different” and “risky.”
4) Practice the art of business as much as the art of advertising.

“We partnered on this research because the topic is an important one,” said Judy Vogel, Vice President of Research for Gannett Co., Inc., the parent company of USA TODAY. “We believe everyone in the industry has a role to play in supporting more honest conversations between agencies and marketers.”

An executive summary of the results from this online survey of more than 140 senior U.S. advertising and marketing executives is available on Slides from RPA’s Forum at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity will also be available on Slideshare.

About RPA

RPA, headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif., is a leading independent advertising agency. RPA builds momentum for brands by offering its clients truly integrated campaigns that resonate throughout its disciplines, which include traditional advertising, digital and event marketing. RPA’s client list includes American Honda, Arco (digital), Delano Las Vegas, Intuit Small Business, La-Z-Boy, Farmers Insurance Group, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and Pivot TV. For more information, visit


USA TODAY is a multi-platform news and information media company. Founded in 1982, USA TODAY’s mission is to serve as a forum for better understanding and unity to help make the USA truly one nation. Through its unique visual storytelling, USA TODAY delivers high-quality and engaging content across print, digital, social and video platforms. An innovator of news and information, USA TODAY reflects the pulse of the nation and serves as the host of the American conversation – today, tomorrow and for decades to follow. USA TODAY, the nation’s number one newspaper in print circulation with an average of nearly 1.8 million daily, and, an award-winning newspaper website launched in 1995, reach a combined 6.6 million readers daily. USA TODAY is a leader in mobile applications with more than 16 million downloads on mobile devices. USA TODAY is owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI).