Clients & Creatives: Working Together to Make Radio Work

Written By

SMI Staff

Published On

Tuesday, Feb 03

Most people who have advertised on the radio know that it’s a collaborative process. The client knows their product or service, target customer, and market better than the agency does; the agency knows radio advertising, media buying, and radio data analysis better than the client does (we hope, anyway).

But forming a collaborative team isn’t always easy (think, Kanye West). So how can clients and creatives work together to find success on the radio? Well, here are some practical ways we, at Strategic Media, have found to maximize profits and generate the best results with our clients.

On the Client Side

1. Be Thorough with the Creative Brief

A typical creative brief will ask about your objectives, target audience, market positioning, core benefits, current advertising, competitors, and legally allowable claims. It is not uncommon for a detailed campaign brief to evoke the following response from a new client: “Holy crap, that’s a lot of questions!”

Well, there’s a reason for that.

The agency needs all the relevant information you can provide in order to catch up to where you already are in terms of what your product or service has to offer, who you intend to sell it to, and why it’s better than the other guy’s.

But it’s not enough to fill in all the blanks. Your campaign brief is an agreement between you and your agency, and everyone involved needs to understand and believe in it 100%. This brief will be the very foundation of your campaign. Your client relations (account) manager will utilize it to convey messaging requirements accurately to the creative team, to structure a production timetable, and to engage the media team. Without this, you may find your meetings filled with frustration, delays, and strategy-switching, all of which will cost you and your bottom line.

2. Be Clear about Timelines and Deadlines

You hired your agency to make you money, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Be clear from the start on when you can expect deliverables from the radio agency and when you need to have your feedback ready for the agency.

One of the prime ways a deadline can get derailed is by not being prepared with legal clearances. Any agency worth their salt will ask you upfront about claims that can legally be made about your product or service. It’s at this point when you’ll want to speak with your in-house or consulting attorney. Don’t wait until the last minute when the script has already been approved and production has begun.

Timelines and deadlines aren’t provided to cause you headaches. They’re there because agencies know that, by following them, they’re giving your radio advertising campaign the best opportunity for success. An agency knows that they have to work within legal guidelines, so they will typically be flexible enough to make adjustments, but it’s important to understand that the shifting of deadlines throws a wrench in the works and can damage your campaign during the most critical time – the initial testing phase.

On the Creative Side

Clients aren’t solely responsible for how the relationship unfolds with creatives. In fact, we would argue that there’s twice as much responsibility on the agency side – after all, the client is paying us. That said, here are twice as many ways in which creatives can help build a successful collaboration.

1. Accept Realistic Expectations

Just as it’s important for a client to understand the effect of altering deadlines, it’s equally important (if not more so) for the radio agency to understand that change is going to happen. Own it, expect it, and be prepared for it – because the fact is that sometimes a campaign simply has a moving target, and you’ve just got to roll with it.

Clients want excellent quality work, delivered promptly, and without unnecessary stress. They want to make sure that the creative is consistent with their goals, that it’s on-brief, targets the right consumers, and reflects the character of the brand. They also want to make sure that it will cut through the noise of other advertisements, especially those of their competition. That’s a tall order. And guess what? It’s absolutely reasonable.

2. Be Clear about Timelines and Deadlines

You know what helps a client to be clear on timelines and deadlines? Clarity on the part of the agency. If a client submits a project and gets radio silence until the agency wants a script review, that request can seem more like an interruption than a part of the process.

Radio advertising agencies would be wise to communicate standard practices to their new clients, so that clients know when to expect not only the deliverables, but status updates as well. This kind of transparency and visibility helps to create true partnerships.

3. Work with (Not against) the Client Relations Manager

More than any other person at a radio advertising agency, the client relations manager is the biggest advocate for the client. Everyone at the radio agency wants the client’s campaign to succeed, but it is the client relations manager who ensures that agency departments get the work done on-brief, on-budget, and on-time.

An experienced client relations manager will know, for instance, if a particular question from a client is actually code for a criticism. They will know this because they have essentially taken on the role of the client for the agency. When this fact is recognized on an internal, agency level, operations go much smoother, and all the players are better able to work together on behalf of the client.

4. Know When to Defend the Work…And When to Back Off

A good direct and brand response creative person is not only creative, but strategic in his or her thinking. She is disciplined and results-oriented. She’s experienced and knows what sells. But not every idea is met with glowing reviews. If a creative feels strongly that an idea should be considered more in-depth, she must understand that the first hurdle in selling the idea is not the client; it’s the client relations manager.

When a creative pushes an idea, she is asking the client relations manager to utilize their personal relationship with a client in order to win her case; so, the work had had better be on-brief and on-strategy (and, if the creative person is good, it will be). The client relations manager will know if it can be sold to the client, how to do it and when to back off gracefully.

If an agency pushes too hard, the client can become frustrated. This will naturally lead to a waning of confidence in the radio agency’s ability to deliver what the client wants. So it is that when the choice is between fighting the good fight and protecting the relationship between the agency and the client, protecting the relationship is paramount.


You may be coming from different perspectives from the people with whom you collaborate, but if everyone is good at what they do, you’ll have the same end-goal, and you’ll be working with true team players. To make this process flow seamlessly requires clear and concise communication about all aspects of a radio advertising campaign. It’s the client’s responsibility to provide all the necessary pieces of the preliminary puzzle; it’s the agency’s responsibility to communicate everything from timelines, to a full understanding of objectives, to why a particular direction was chosen over another. And like any great production, when all the players know their part, the creative will reflect the brand while simultaneously generating the greatest volume of leads for the client. Or, in other words: win-win.

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