Being in the advertising industry it’s quite common to have a less than positive attitude towards the clients we serve and dedicate our waking hours to. Phrases like “the client is dumb” have been heard in the halls of advertising for as long as advertising was around.
It’s common to be aghast when clients spew vague oxymoronic wisdom and expect the agency to continue the discussion and explore their direction of thinking without first going to the bathroom for a puke, the bar to get drunk and home to our mothers to spill out our hearts and tell her how we hate our lives. I’ve seen quite a few junior executives go through this phase and when their superiors cast the first stone, their uninhibited inner thoughts from their subconscious comes out and torches the client like a mindless dragon that just escaped from a dungeon seeking revenge.
Then after a year the agency gets reviewed and the whole account goes into a toss.
When we, the people from the agency side put in the hard work and long hours and not seen success, it’s understandable to be frustrated, it’s also understandable to lash out at our clients who are supposedly the ones who brings us much pain and suffering. In this highly emotional industry, It is understandable, but it’s also unhealthy and career limiting.
Have we thought about the conversations happening on the other side, the client side? What do they say about their agency? Let’s simplify the agency review into a scale of five stars and see what they could possibly mean.
Disclaimer: I’ve never been on the client side. The following are purely from my imagination and of my own opinion. Any resemblance to real events, real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
How did my predecessors decide to engage this agency? I’m perfectly fine that they are late on their deliverables, but avoiding me on calls and not replying my emails only later to tell me that the deadline had to be pushed because of some vague unfathomable reason when the deadline had already passed is just unbelievable.
Not only do they not seem to have basic common sense, they also don’t seem to understand the words coming out of my mouth. I rather do the work myself than to pay them another cent to make my life even more miserable than it already is. My blood starts to boil when my phone rings and I see the agency’s number on caller id.
I believe my briefs are clear, but why do they always come back with all this super lame my-grandmother-can-have-a-better-idea type idea. I’m really curious how our brief was translated to the rest of the extended agency. Seriously copying epic split and old spice was not the brief, I wonder if they even have any insights at all. Do they even know what my marketing objectives are?!
They can execute, I give them that and I can even forgive them for that once in a while mistake or delay, but I seriously think I’m paying too much for just this kind of execution. There is simply no leadership, we need to tell them what to do along the way. They still have the cheek to pressure me to sign new quotes whenever we meet. I’m looking forward to work with a new agency.
My agency is ok and I think agencies are generally all the same. They work hard at times, they slack at times, they deliver most of the time according to plan, but they do miss some deadlines as well. Sometimes they give us all their attention, but sometimes they also seem to be busy with other business, so that’s not so nice.
The senior strategic people seems to be appearing less, leaving all these junior executives to take care of our business.
But when we do get the good senior strategic people in, things move along fairly well, but when they don’t get so involved things either become less strategic and becomes more executional. At times I give them some briefs just to keep them on their toes and challenge their ideas.
I love my agency. They get me. They know what is important and I can genuinely feel that they care for our brand and our business while having a good grasp of the market and our consumers. At times when we are not too sure of the way forward, they will workshop with us, make us focus on the more important things and collaboratively we work something out. The outcome tend to be good and sometimes simply brilliant.
The awards we have won because of this partnership is evidence that it’s a great relationship that’s working well. I understand that such agency reviews are necessary but honesty lets just extend their contract already.
My agency is a unicorn. Their employees are all supermodels and available 24/7. Every meeting is like a date and my heart will always skip a beat during these meetings and they are the absolute highlight of my day.
They send me their proposals before I send them the brief and the best part is we don’t need emails as everything is done almost telepathically. Not only do we win all possible awards we enter for, my agency charge me only a nominal fee and most of the time the work is pro-bono.
They take all my verbal abuse when I’m bored and just need to shout at someone. They counsel me when I’m sad, throw me parties, run my errands and collect my laundry too.
I love my agency. I love them more than I love myself.
Of course the last bit is an exaggeration because supermodels need their beauty sleep so its not possible to be available 24/7 and telepathy have not been invented yet.
Ok ok ok, in all seriousness, If you are working in Advertising and have read thus far, I urge all of us to not think that “the client is dumb”, instead look at ourselves and ask ourselves if we are proud being paid by our clients for what we have done for them?
What value have we brought into the relationship? What leadership have we shown? How much time have we invested in knowing our client’s business and understanding the things that are keeping them up at night? Is it just a client-vendor relationship or is it more of a partnership? The list goes on…
We are in the business of communication. We have the power to shape minds and change perceptions. We have the power to build brands and start movements. We have the ability to create art filled with science. We have the ability to be a catalyst of good and to influence this generation and the generations to come.
So, in the grand scheme of things, the stars our client gives us don’t matter, what matters is how we approach our craft which results in the quality of the work which then results in the stars our client gives us. So care for your client’s business and do good work and I’m sure you and your agency will be stars.