Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You Are Only As Good As Your Client...

It's an old topic, but one I was asked to write about by a blog follower... so here goes!

You Are Only As Good As Your Client...

One of the key problems with advertising is that the reasons your brands hire marketing managers are not always the same as the reasons we would. Take that money vs creativity conflict that account folk have and ramp it up even more...

It doesn't matter who you are, be you Juan Cabral, Dave Trott, or Pete Smith the DM copywriter; if a client doesn't buy it, it doesn't get made. Good clients will get good work, bad clients will get bad.

Having great account people and planners can help you cheat this limitation. Using their knowledge of client business, customers, communications and the market; they can help sell in strategies, briefs and work that weaker staff could not. Most clients are more than good enough to get great work if you sell it correctly.

Sadly though, there are a small number of clients that just grind creativity to a halt. I have heard stories of all of these from various agencies and friends, though happily I have yet to experience them:

  • You spend months in creative development working to an agreed brief, making amends and adjustments. It is finally ready, a perfect fit to the brief; and they decide to go with a safe dull sales heavy idea instead

  • The client struggles to make any decisions, so nothing ever gets made

  • You create a brilliant, groundbreaking new idea, and the client sits on it so long someone else gets there first

  • You go to make a great ad, but the client insists on changing every line and every shot til all the original idea has gone

  • Plus the good old - client refuses to have a brief with any hope of creativity
A good personal example of the twists in a client relationship for me was working on a TV and press campaign for a growing brand. The client would go through every detail with a microscope, justifying every word of copy and every mm of layout. It was difficult to sell in work, and a long long process to get the final work. But we were able to make really good work because he fundamentally understood creativity, branding, the use of white space, where to sell and where not to, etc. He turned out to be a very good client.
You only have to look at most great campaigns to see how having a good client is vital. Would a bad aftershave client have spent a big budget making videos to talk to people on twitter and you tube? Would a bad insurance client have bought a campaign about a rich mongoose breating your customers?
Then look at some bad campaigns from good agencies over the years. What are the odds that they did better but couldn't sell it in... A bad client is like a flat tire. It doesn't matter how big your engine is, how good your suspension, how beautiful the body work... you ain't going nowhere.

I guess the thing to remember is that like every industry, there are good people, and there are bad. We should take time to appreciate the good and try and help the bad!

1 comment:

Pablo Edwards said...

What a great final thought. I am writing it down and sticking it on my desk! Really made my day!