OPINION: ECCLESHARE ON ... LISTENING TO CLIENTS

Any credentials presentations worth the name will eventually tease out of the prospect their reason for looking around. And no-one is gullible enough to believe that they’re doing it just to ’see what’s out there’.

Any credentials presentations worth the name will eventually tease

out of the prospect their reason for looking around. And no-one is

gullible enough to believe that they’re doing it just to ’see what’s out

there’.



The grass may always be greener, but invariably it comes to look that

way because your own lawn is looking a bit parched.



What interests me is that the quality of the advertising is surprisingly

rarely cited as a problem. All too often I am told that it’s the

relationship that simply isn’t working: ’they don’t listen’, ’they don’t

understand me’, ’they don’t seem interested any more’. Lines like this

should belong more to B-movies than to new-business meetings.



Of course, great work and, consequently, great business, will invariably

allow clients to overlook any pain in the delivery process. But all too

often agencies - all agencies - produce work that is slightly less than

great. It’s then that the relationship becomes so critical.



So, why is it that we find it so hard to listen? Sometimes I think it’s

because we still confuse listening with having no view of our own.



We’ve all been trained to believe that supinely giving the client what

they want is a huge mistake and, of course, it is.



But frequently that seems to be taken to be a reason for utterly

refusing to understand the real issues or the business environment in

which the resulting brand communications are going to have to work.



What do we mean by ’the client’ anyway? It’s all too often an

ill-defined catch-all.



Do we mean the brand manger, the marketing director, the CEO? What about

other key stakeholders like the sales director, production people,

financial director and so on?



It’s only by really understanding the full context, and listening hard

to the subtext, that an agency can even begin to develop a relevant

strategy.



Listening is the ultimate demonstration of respect for the views and

opinions of others. We moan and groan about how our clients have lost

respect for agencies. But if we demonstrated our respect for their

expertise, perhaps they’d show more for ours.



Much of what the best agencies do at the strategic stage involves

rapidly assimilating as much relevant data as they can get their hands

on. We spend thousands of pounds on listening to consumers and analysing

vast tracts of research data, but we frequently ignore the received

wisdoms and knowledge of those who are closest to the business.



The best clients may not know how to write an ad, or even an ad

strategy, but they certainly know their business. And it is astonishing

what little use many of us make of that obvious fact.



So, while it’s undoubtedly true that clients come in for a credentials

presentation for a variety of reasons, I’m absolutely certain that a lot

of pitches would never happen at all if the incumbent had spent just a

little more time in receive mode, and a bit less time transmitting.



William Eccleshare is the chairman of Ammirati Puris Lintas.



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).