It was agency evaluation time. That time of the year, when I as the business head of the agency team, have to set up a formal meeting with the Marketing Director, at my client’s office. Go over and have a chat about the agency’s performance, for the year that went by. Performance on everything…creative work, project management, quality of strategy, business results, team dynamics, opportunity areas etc.
I was pretty confident about the agency evaluation meeting this year. The brand equity was in great shape. Business was great. We had done some decent work. Also won an Effie (effectiveness) award. So the agency evaluation was going to be good this year.
Soon enough I was in front of the Marketing Director, my usual smiling self. The MD surprised me, 120 seconds into the conversation. He said, “Jean, this year is all good and we can go over each aspect in detail soon. There is only one area I would like you to fix immediately, more than anything else. I would like you to change the creative team on our brands!”
I shook myself out of a “stunned pause” moment and asked “I hear you, but can you elaborate a little more on the issue, please? The brand is doing well. We have done some great creative work. The Creative team is full of great listeners and you love them. So what happened?”
The Marketing Director calmly replied “I have never learned anything from anyone who always agrees with me. I love your creative team but they always agree with me”!
As soon as those words left his mouth, I knew exactly what he was talking about.
He was talking about the value an agency brings to the table.
Many of us don’t listen to our clients. But there are many others, who bend backwards and do exactly what the client wants. Both are wrong, there is probably an appropriate balance that needs to be achieved.
Anyways…the current case in point is about us doing exactly what the client wants. It erodes the value an agency brings to the table. If the agency will do exactly what the client says, he might as well do it himself. One morning when the agency wakes up, it will discover that the client has got dressed and walked away.
I am not at all saying we should not do the right thing. If the client is saying something that makes sense, sure go ahead and definitely do it. But if he is not, then he is actually looking to us to tell him that he is wrong and another way to look at this is xyzeee etc.
I am not going to labour on this point. You got it!
Don’t agree with me. You decide.
By the way, I am sure you want to know what happened to the creative team. No, we didn’t change them. Infact I made sure that the client kept them on the team. That was a very sharp creative team, who sold their best ideas in such a way that the client believed that those ideas were his. He owned the ideas, they got the work they wanted, released.
I just agreed with the creative team that we will ensure from now on that the Marketing Director realises that all the ideas are the team’s, him included. Not just his!
Now maybe…you will agree with me!
The article first appeared on Campaign Asia