Each month as part of our GO! Figure content series we will be spending time speaking with agency owners and leaders to get their opinions on a different topic directly affecting our industry.

This month for our Agency Q&A we sat down for a chat with Richard Exon, the founder of Joint London and spoke all things intermediaries and why we should care about them?

GO!: Thanks for agreeing to be the focus of this month’s Q&A Richard. For those that not in the know, tell us a little about yourself and your agency?

RE: Before co-founding Joint in 2012 I was CEO of RKCR/Y&R for a little under 5 years, having spent 13 years at BBH including stints as both UK and Global Business Development Director.

Joint is an international creative agency working extensively with the likes of Amazon Prime, Amazon Echo. Kettle Foods, TSB Bank and Vue.

GO!: This months topic is WTF is an intermediary? In your own words, how would you explain the role of intermediaries in the agency world?

RE: At Joint we regard intermediaries as a key part of our growth strategy. They specialise in understanding client companies’ requirements and sourcing agencies who can meet those requirements.

Ultimately the intermediary should act as a dating agency between both parties. From setting up first dates with the right shortlist of partners to establish whether there is good chemistry, then behind the scenes briefing for both sides to establish that “my mate fancies you”; right through to walking them down the aisle as the happy couple make it official.

GO!: Talk us through some of your first-hand experience of working with intermediaries?

RE: Mostly we have had positive experiences with intermediaries, especially when individuals at the intermediaries are active and visible through the process.

I’ve run out of dating analogies now but at their best, an intermediary is able to assist in guiding you to the right answers quicker by bringing in-depth insight from the clients perspective – and to help avoid any blind alleys.

GO!: When your agency has signed up to work with intermediaries in the past what have been the key drivers in the decision?

RE: We need to believe the intermediaries truly understand their clients’ needs, and that they are interested in really understanding Joint, where and how we are planning to grow our business.

GO!: What do you see as the biggest differences between receiving a brief directly from a client and from an intermediary?

RE: At their best intermediaries make client briefs clearer, more complete and more realistically priced.

There is real value that the intermediary can bring by stress-testing the client’s brief in advance of it going live. Is the brief right and who might the right partners be to answer it? Because there are plenty of fish in the sea. (Managed to find another dating reference.)

GO!: What do you see as the biggest positives of working with intermediaries?

RE: As above, plus having a third voice in a discussion can help avoid any misunderstandings or false starts that can crop up between two teams who don’t yet know each other well.

Like a good referee who allows the game to flow, some of our best experiences with intermediaries are often when you don’t even notice what they are doing because they have prepared both sides so well.

GO!: Flipping that, what are the downsides?

RE: Very occasionally it feels like an intermediary can make a process unnecessarily complex or drawn out. Although to be fair this is happening less and less.

GO!: If you could alter the existing intermediary model or design it from scratch, what changes would you make?

RE: The model may not be perfect but it works pretty well. It’s always good to have new players come along though. Change is happening fast and new entrants tend to push everyone to up their game.

And of course, we’re delighted that GO! have opened in Manchester to bring a new challenger to the market.

GO!: What advice would you offer to agencies who have no experience of working with intermediaries?

RE: Be very precise and transparent about what you’d like from your relationship with an intermediary and also spend the time to find out how each intermediary differs from the others.

They are all very different.

GO!: Thanks for answering our questions Richard!

If you’ve enjoyed this you can read last months Agency Leader Q&A with Alistair Fitch Founder of Digital Natives, here