The evolution of agency-client relationships within the communication network in Italy: The perspective of communication partners

  • Federica Ceccotti
  • Maria Vernuccio
  • Alberto Mattiacci
Keywords: communication partners; agency-client relationships; communication network; digital revolution; integrated marketing communication; cognitive mapping technique


Purpose of the paper. Due to the digital revolution, the agency-client relationship has become more complex. Fitting into the recent academic literature on this topic, this study aims to deepen and conceptualise the agency-client relationship evolution in Italy. We adopted a twofold perspective: (i) “transversal”, to acquire the holistic vision of emerging issues of the new communication scenario and their consequent effects on the relational dynamics of agency-client for all the players (i.e., advertising and PR agency, media centre, digital agency) and (ii) “vertical”, to better emphasise the specificities of each category of the agency.

Methodology. Qualitative exploratory research was conducted based on in-depth interviews (n=53) with senior consultants belonging to different categories of players within the communication network. The data were analysed using qualitative content analysis and the cognitive mapping technique.

Findings. By adopting the communication partners perspective, two interpretative frameworks were developed with respect to (1) key emerging issues that define the new communication scenario and (2) consequent effects on the evolution of the agency-client relationship. Specific themes emerged in the relational dynamics of the agency’s various categories.

Research limits. This study shows the limits of qualitative research on the non-representativeness of results.

Practical implications. The holistic interpretation by the various actors of key issues that qualify the new scenario, along with the understanding of their consequent effects on agency-client relationships, could contribute to improving the performance of each player and, in this way, of the entire communication network.

Originality of the paper. The study explores the agency-relationship evolution in Italy, a context that has still not been studied in-depth, while presenting relevant aspects of marketing communication. Additionally, the article proposes a twofold vision of the client-agency relationship evolution, i.e.”transversal” and “vertical”, for the first time.


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