The client (advertiser).
The word ‘client’ in advertising parlance for some reason has a strange ring to it.
It almost sounds like a bad word. Wonder why.
Chances are with evolution, the avatar of a client has morphed into a fire-spewing dragon from once being Casper the Friendly Ghost.
In the early days, clients wore safari suits or matching ties but came with an approachable and friendly demeanour. With time, the look has become rather dapper and far more relaxed but the demeanour is very business-like and barely relaxed.
The equation has changed from being equal partners in communication, to now a more client-supplier equation.
So how does that affect the work?
It’s certainly transactional and mercenary now and hence lacks the love and passion the approach needs.
It’s also because from first generation entrepreneurs who had personal stakes in the businesses that they managed, it’s now a scenario where some big giant conglomerate overseas has a mandate and everyone follows diktats like robots and meets targets. And they have data to back everything they say.
There’s no time to build relationships based on pure love, when numbers and stats substantiate and do all the talking.
Visualize this: Over the client’s head hangs the Sword of Damocles (Great fortune and power also come with great responsibility).
The stress and strain of meeting unprecedented targets and unreasonable deadlines, competing with rival brands, one’s own personal growth trajectory within the organisation, and the job of having an opinion on every detail and behaving like a leader. Then, market research must prove your prophecy right or you fail by your own yardstick. And all the while you seemingly have the secret elixir of control and power.
As a client you must be on top of your game at all times. You have to be the whiz on marketing, sales, advertising, film making, statistics, analysis, number crunching, crisis management, human relationships. Wow! Sort of like a dashavatar here on earth to restore cosmic order.
The client has to make his brand sparkle like a rare diamond. His peers from business school must regard him as a contemporary who has hit the ‘big time’. His family must make sense of his endless phone calls discussing in minute detail: larger font size and glitches on television channels (that mostly only he can see) and mounting supplier costs. His children must learn the art of tact from him as he negotiates hard and is pointedly firm with subordinates.
There are three dominant kinds of clients.
The first kind knows his business like a much-loved song. He has energy and inspires his team. Thirsty to do superlative work and understands how to get the best team on the job. He makes his team feel the onus of doing the best work there is. Is honest. Relies on his gut. Knows a good idea when he gets a whiff of it. Is willing to take risks and backs his team no matter what. Believes in building lasting relationships. Understands the importance of longevity and not small short-term gains.
The second type sits on the fence and crouches behind statistics and numbers. Never willing to take risks and has not an iota of creativity in him. He knows this and tries to overcompensate for it. Tries too hard and trusts no one. Always doubtful and doesn't give credit where it’s due. Happy with short-term gains and has no foresight or insight.
The third kind of client is the one that pits one group against another and plays games to further his own advantage, vandalising along the way. This is the worst kind. He has no room for scruples and feelings. His game is to maximise personal power. He will never admit to failure. Will always find others to blame.
If you are a client and reading this you could be either relating to this or taking offence.
I’m afraid if you are offended then you need to do some work on yourself peering into a mirror.
And if you aren't offended, pat yourself on the back because you're clearly one of a kind.
The client has veto powers and can exercise it but must learn to use it with restraint.
The power he wields is in listening not talking alone.
The power he wields is in trusting not controlling at all times.
The power he wields is in knowing his power and not in using it always.
The client has to be the loyal dog, the cunning fox, the sharp eagle and the chirpy bird all at once.
No one has to like a client. That’s too tepid.
You have to respect him or abhor him.
Some of us have been fortunate to work with the most inspiring
kind and some of us have dealt with the worst of the lot.
Hail – the client! You deserve allegiance when you behave like the king who prioritises the needs of his kingdom and places it above all else.
P.S.: The ‘client’ in our context is at the helm of marketing and communication and is primarily responsible for the communication that his or her organisation puts out for the world to consume.
(The author is executive producer / partner at Nirvana Films. Views expressed are personal.)