I'm never sure whether to be amazed or saddened, or a little of both, when I come across a case like this. Just now on the AdWords Community there's a poster who's asking for help because their "agency" have denied them access to their AdWords Account. The poster spends a very large sum of money with this agency every year yet they can't even see their own advertising account or have any evidence of what work is being done.
I'm amazed because to me this sounds insane, I mean, who would make a decision like this in the first place and who would allow it to continue? If I said to you, dear reader, "Pay me £5,000 every month to manage your AdWords Account, on the understanding that I'll never let you see what I've done, and you'll never have access to the actual AdWords Account running your Ads." you'd laugh, wouldn't you?
I'm saddened because the tale is not an uncommon one. This poster is not unusual and in fairness they've not been naïve, they've just fallen foul of the same issue we all face when we need an "expert" to do work for us; we're at the mercy of their goodwill and honesty. It's very easy for me to say the way this agency works is unjust and they should be ashamed of themselves and that the hiring company have made a bad mistake, but it's easy because in this case I'm the expert. If I take my car in for a service and Ray says it needs a new clutch and it's going to cost £X, I have no idea whether what he's saying is true. I have to trust him. If, sometime down the line I have some way of proving that it didn't need a new clutch I'll realise I was fooled but I shouldn't feel bad because I had no way of knowing at the time.
(Luckily Ray is a very nice man who I trust totally. My car does need a service soon so I'd better be nice.).
There is something you can do in the case of AdWords though, something very easy. Ask. I'd rather answer 10,000 questions in a day from people who hadn't yet taken on an agency like this than answer just one from someone who I suspect may have been paying a lot of money without much reward.
You don't have to trust me either. Any decent AdWords consultant will tell you that in almost all cases the client should own the Account and the agency should be provided with access to it, not the other way around. In this way the client always retains complete control and always has full and total visibility of what it being done.
There are some very rare cases where I'd consider running Ads on behalf of a client but they'd all be very very small budgeted, short-term tests, not an ongoing promotion with any real budget.
So, if you're thinking of hiring an agency and you're not sure what to ask or what they should be offering, ask for help in the Community, we'll give it gladly.