I want to start this piece by declaring that this is not a take-down-piece on clients. As tempting as it is to do that, I write this to help each of us learn from the below list of ‘what not to be’ and work towards creating better advertising as agencies, as brands, as bosses.
Creativity, for the most part, is a co-created process. The client has just as much a role to play in the eventual outcome, as does the agency that gets to work on it in the first place. In fact, I’ve seen the same people do tremendous advertising on one account, and below average, not worth their portfolio advertising on another account. Below is a list of ‘don’ts and don’ts’, so as to drive the best out of your agency:
1) Mr. ‘You have all the freedom’: While this seems like a great client to have, chances are he’s not doing his own thinking. He’s just giving the agency enough rope to hang themselves with. He’s the guy who will let you do all the thinking, while keeping absolutely mum. But once the final presentation is ready, he’ll suddenly grow a voice and have an opinion. Creative people think best when faced with a business problem. They love to be challenged. However, ‘incremental sales’ or ‘market share dip’ are not the problem. They are the outcomes at best. So, Think.
2) Mr. ‘Due as of yesterday’: There are two reasons why a client behaves this way. Either he is extremely unorganised, or he’s just not the guy calling the shots. In either of the scenarios, your agency is not going to be able to give you the quality you and your brand deserve. If you are him, just one piece of advice. Breathe, and buy a calendar.
3) Mr. ‘Flip today, Flop tomorrow’: You’ve obviously heard the adage, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither is a brand. Advertising is driven by a sound process, contrary to what most small/mid-size clients believe. To be out of the box, you need a defined ‘box’. A delirious client is at best changing the box, every chance he gets. And, if unsure, listen.
4) Mr. Mandatories: If you’re not any of the three I’ve mentioned till now, you’re doing good. But that’s the problem with this type of client. They believe that as long as they check all the boxes, they’re doing good. The problem is, the consumer is only impressed with what’s great. Good just doesn’t cut it anymore. So don’t worry about cutting back on the tick-boxes. Give good strategic direction, the mandatories will fall in place.
5) Mr. ‘It needs to go to the 44th floor’: Probably the most perilous of the lot. Not because he has a boss. Who doesn’t? It’s because he will constantly use this to say ‘see, I’m on your side, but I know it’s just not going to go down well with the 44th floor’. The problem really isn’t with the 44th floor ever, it never was. He just doesn’t have the depth of knowledge to be able to have a two-way discussion with the ‘proverbial’ 44th floor. Stand up for what you believe in, and fight for it sometimes!
6) Mr. ‘Crisis Constantly’: When every project is the most important project of the year, you know you’re him. Definitely the most insecure of the lot. He doesn’t believe that anyone in the system, or the agency, will take his work seriously enough and hence escalates every project to crisis mode. Unlike what he believes, the agency too wants to do great work. Give a deadline, and trust your agency.
7) Mr. ‘Calculated Creativity’: Advertising is a business of the hyperbole. But when you start to confuse it with the hyperbola and define the equation the creative ought to fit, you know you’re only going to get to the predetermined point B. You can’t always know the end goal, when in the creative process. You’re looking to sleep better, when you ought to be dreaming.
Agencies and clients alike want what’s best for the brand. Our salaries depend on that sales target that the advertising was set out to achieve. If you are a client and fit into any of the categories outlined above, take a big step back, follow the pointers highlighted above and watch your agency do wonders with your brand. If you’re an agency and are dealing with any of the above, end every e-mail with a link to this page till he gets the hint! After all, a brand is only as good as it’s weakest link.
(The views and opinions expressed are our own. Maybe be untrue for some and true for many. Our intention is solely to understand the Indian mindset and in no way disregard or disrespect any culture, belief or group. The author is CEO, Foolish)