Why is the same agency that can create great, award-winning work for one of client, fails embarrassingly with dreadful advertising for another?
The answer is simple and it’s the dirty little secret of the ad business. There’s not enough great talent to go around and work on all the agency’s clients proportionally. The best talent is leaving the agency business and a shallow pool of top performers means that, not all clients of an agency are treated equally. Some attract a disproportionate share of the agency’s most talented people. Most other clients have to do with whatever crumbs they can forage.
Years ago, David Ogilvy famously said, “Clients get the advertising they deserve”, meaning that, the client holds the key to the kind of work the agency creates for them. Good clients get good work and bad clients get bad work.
Here are a few suggestions on how to become a “client of choice” and get the best work out of your agency:
1. Be the best client they have. The clients that agencies would just die to work with, are not necessarily ‘nice.’ But client and agency have great chemistry, and peak morale, no matter how demanding the client is, as long as they are decisive, professional, and with a clear vision for their brand.
2. Give a clear brief. It’s the client’s responsibility as initiator of the project that the framework is expressed very clearly in the brief. Concise, precise briefs should state what you want in a piece of work; when you do expect delivery; and the concrete results it needs to achieve.
3. Streamline the approval process. Be blunt and kill bad or irrelevant ideas quickly without the tormenting the agency with endless meetings. Countless revisions demoralize the agency, and drive away its top people away. Instead, narrow the options quickly, pick up just one or two horses to bet on, and concentrate on making each better.
4. Get the CEO involved. Typically, the best advertising is achieved when there are relationships between the CEO of a company and the Chief Creative Officer of the agency. Just take a look at the relationship between Steve Jobs of Apple and Lee Clow of TBWA/Chiat/Day or Dan Wieden of W+K and Phil Knight of Nike.
5. Have a stomach for risk. Traditional advertising has become increasingly easy to ignore by consumers. Because of this, take risks with the work, both in their messaging and in their marketing channels.
6. Trust begets skill. Share everything with your agency. Clients who share even the most intimate data and invest in teaching their agency every aspect of their business, usually get the best results.
7. Have a “Yes Man (or Woman)” in every meeting. The best advertising is created when there is a senior client who can say “yes” to the work in every meeting throughout the process. Packing the conference room with people who lack the “yes” power will just put the work through the meat grinder.
8. Ensure agency profitability. Agencies are a business. They are here to make money. They need to make a profit in order to to hire and to retain the best people. They need the latest technology. If you aren’t one of the most profitable clients of an agency, you are not likely to get the best resources.
9. Become an “ad person.” Apple and Nike are full of those people. Ad people really love advertising. They like to talk about it. They like to read about it. They like to see it. Create this culture around your business.
10. Be human. Don’t be a “client.” Become friends with your agency. The best clients are the ones who, if you walk into the room, you wouldn’t know who was the agency and who was the client. Strive for that. Sometimes, the best strategy or best tag line can pop up over a beer shared with your agency after hours. Friendship facilitates trust and risk taking without even trying.