Purpose: The aim of this paper is to explore the tensions and basis for conflict within relationships that embed and connect networked companies involved in the planning of advertising, with broader relevance for professional service organizations. Design/methodology/approach: Framed within a social network perspective, this interpretive study draws on 22 in-depth interviews to discuss the emergence and consequences of conflict within relationships shared by advertising creatives, account managers, researchers and media planners located in Scotland. Findings: The paper identifies four dominant themes which contribute toward relational conflict: the intensity of involvement in advertising planning, the emergence of role ambiguity, cultural stereotyping, and conflicts of interest. Originality/value: The paper provides a valuable antidote to studies reliant on dyadic client-agency perspectives. Adopting a network perspective, it recognizes the importance of the multiple, simultaneous relationships involved in advertising planning. It offers a critical perspective on advertising relationships, considering the emergence, characteristics and consequences of tension and conflict inherent. The discussion reveals ongoing struggles for control over the process of advertising planning, and considers the implications of overt and covert actions on perceptions of network trust. The paper provides a spectrum of outcomes, ranging from collaborative tension to intra-organisational conflict. This study is most relevant to academics and managers involved in professional services.