MILLS ON ... LEGAL BATTLES

The managing director of a top ten agency once told me a wonderful story about client obsession with pitch confidentiality. Asked one day if his agency would pitch for a secret project, the client said to him: ’By the way, you don’t mind if we send you over a copy of our legally binding confidentiality agreement?’

The managing director of a top ten agency once told me a wonderful

story about client obsession with pitch confidentiality. Asked one day

if his agency would pitch for a secret project, the client said to him:

’By the way, you don’t mind if we send you over a copy of our legally

binding confidentiality agreement?’



’Not at all,’ my agency friend replied. ’I’m sure you won’t mind if we

send you ours.’ At this point, he said, he could almost hear the client

gasping with astonishment at his effrontery. Don’t you just wish there

were more agencies with the same degree of confidence about what they

do?



I mention this merely as a prelude to my subject this week, which is the

idea of agencies suing clients, either directly or - as in the case of

the Lowe Group, Marvin Sloves and the dollars 125 million Mercedes-Benz

business - indirectly. When I first joined Campaign, this kind of story

fell into what journalists would call the ’man bites dog’ category - ie

it was so rare it was guaranteed front-page treatment. Not so today.



Putting the Lowe Group case to one side, in the US J. Walter Thompson

has pursued Dell, and DMB&B Gateway 2000. Over here I know of at least

one wrangle that could similarly end up in legal action.



Traditionalists will tut-tut and say this is a bad state of affairs for

the industry as a whole. The customer (ie the client) is always right.

Irrespective of circumstances, on no account should agencies seek to

take legal action if the client decides to move his or her business. Too

much of that and an agency will get a bad reputation.



I’ve had enough legal rows of my own to know court should be avoided

wherever possible.



Nor, it could be argued, should agencies complain too much when they

lose business to another agency in an underhand manner. Should the

situation be reversed, they would be only too happy to welcome the

incoming account aboard.



All this is true. On the other hand, I take a great deal of comfort from

seeing agencies that are prepared to, as some would put it, draw a line

in the sand.



For one thing, it shows me there are people who are prepared to stand up

for what they believe and who have a clear sense of what they are

worth.



For too long agencies have collectively allowed themselves to be kicked

around by clients. Psychiatrists would describe such behaviour as

characteristic of those with a low sense of self-esteem - and I can

think of more than a few agencies that fall into this category when

faced with some big clients. The danger for agencies of having a victim

mentality is that it becomes self-fulfilling. Long term, it encourages

clients to devalue the service they get from their agencies. Provided it

is not done recklessly, agencies should be applauded for their

courage.



Ah, but is this really the correct thing for a service company to do?

Absolutely.



It’s too easy to confuse the word ’service’ with being servile. Genuine

partners - which is what the best agencies insist they are - know the

difference.



Topics

Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).