The daily grind wouldn’t be called so if it weren’t for our clients. Single-handedly, whether you agree or not, they have the power to do a lot to us. They might infuriate, dictate, frustrate, humiliate, appreciate, procrastinate, remonstrate, pointlessly deliberate and even perhaps titillate (if you are particularly unlucky) but the fact remains that they also compensate us for all that they make us do. They do pay our bills.
And while important people from our small world have had big things to say (on all matters big or small) there is no ready reference Guide to Understanding the Advertising Agency Client. We may choose to cover them all with the blanket word of ‘Client’. But it is grossly unfair to do so. Especially when just like other mind-numbing substances, they come in various forms and strains, both good and bad. In this guide, I attempt to dissect five of the most common ones.
Note: This is an independent study compiled over the years. Theories derived and concoctedout of experiences, re-forwarded emails and drunken conversations that people have been good enough to share with me. There are no attached diagrams. But trust me, you will get the picture.
1. The One Who Wants It Yesterday
It was a good joke while it lasted. But over the years, it is the perhaps the worst thing you want to hear. There are a few who have mastered the art. We decided late. The CEO was traveling. The celebrity agent didn’t get back. Our competition is up to something. People want it.Sorry, the deal was done three minutes back. We have heard it all. And though we still find it hard to believe that the media was booked less than twenty-four hours in advance for something ‘so big’, we still find ourselves strangely motivated and challenged to do it. Like our sole purpose in life was to catch the dreaded publication deadline. We know you want it yesterday. We only wish you didn’t think we were born around the same time as well.
Zaroori Meter: Very High. You need to keep yourself on the edge. This is like a rite of passage. It prepares you to think on our feet and then you are ready for the worst life has to offer.
2. The One Who Approves Everything (Releases Nothing)
It’s yet another big campaign. You go all guns blazing. Before the last practiced joke rolls off your tongue, they start smiling. They like it. They laugh. Repeat your pithy line over and over while nodding their heads. A lackey starts humming your jingle tunelessly. They pump your hand, tousle your hair, tug your…er…pat your back. Short of putting you on their shoulders and singing odes like Ye Beholde, this Dude our Saviour, they do everything. The ride back to the agency is gay. Everyone is smiling. There are more jokes. In your happiness, you even start re-assessing your relationship with the planners. It’s not that bad after all, you think. Then they call you back the next day. The smiles are still there. So you relax. Small changes, little things. You do them. They still smile. Can we also tweak the line a little? It’s a little contrived, perhaps. Think of something. This will be big.Just go for it. Hypnotised with delusions of grandeur you go back. Again and again and again. The saga continues. You never get close to the finish line. Six months later it looks like a lump of dough. And still being kneaded by smiling head chefs. This is big. It will change everything. Just go for it.
Zaroori Meter: Very High. Your tiny little egos need the adulation. It makes you write blogs. So what if nothing gets released. You still did think of it. No?
3. The Scrooge
Just for youngsters who might be reading this (and by now considering a career as a lathe mechanic) these are not the smaller, less rich clients. It is often the one with the deepest pockets who act the cheapest. And they are not apologetic about it. They demand free stock images. They insist you use the same talent at half-cost. They sit on bills for months. The monthly retainer becomes an oxymoron. All in the name of It is your duty to negotiate for us no matter how cheap, childish or immature we seem.
Zaroori Meter: High. They help you understand the value of money. Not to mention,you can also start giving out branded lunch boxes this year as a Diwali Bonus and expect employees to understand.
4. The Confused One
This one is definitely not evil or vindictive but just as infuriating. Commonly found in organisations with loads of hierarchies. They subject your best work to Death By Committee and yet you cannot bring yourself to hate them as wholly as completely as you would like to. Things do get done eventually. And in some form gets released as well. But if the junior accountant on their fifth floor’s moral beliefs were really hurt in the making of the commercial or not, you will never know.
Zaroori Meter: High. It is always important to assess anything that you do a thousand times before you do. Haven’t you heard of the phrase Look, peep, look again, reconfirm, change body position, alter strategy, shave head and look before you leap?
5. The Flirt
You thought this might get interesting now, did you not? Not a chance. We are not inside our head. This one has been your client for a while now. It’s a comfortable place. And yet they choose to occasionally flirt with other agencies. Sometimes, it is a project. Sometimes, a full-blown pitch. You can’t fathom why. We need some fresh thinking, they say. You believe them. You think you have screwed up. You take it to the highest level. But nothing can save it. It starts off with one project that goes out. You are never sure of what’s going to happen. You up the ante on the smaller jobs. Creatives are reprimanded for being lackadaisical. Account Directors write pages of briefs for an internal e-mailer brief. You think you can still save it. You have to. Point is the jingle by the other agency has been made. And released. Worse still, parodied. Goodbye *sniffle.
Zaroori Meter: Very High. It teaches you to never take anyone for granted. So stop reading this and start working on that pending e-mailer. Now.
As a disclaimer to ensure I still have a job (and to the youngsters who might be reading this), there are clients who do not fit into this category. There are ones who are fair. Who value you as partners. Ones who ensure we get our just deserts. People who egg us on to do greater things. In our field of work, without a great partner who believes in you – you are nothing. To all those faceless Brand Managers and Marketing Heads who supported me because they believed, I thank you. For without you, I wouldn’t have been here.
Trilokjit Sengupta is the Creative Director and one of the founder members of Metal. He has spent almost ten years in adverising and thinks it is enough.