For an industry which spends an inordinate amount of time in
restaurants, it has often struck me that we could learn so much from the
ways in which they treat their patrons, and yet we so often fail to do
No, this is not an attempt to start an ’if Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO was
a restaurant, what would it be?’ competition. Instead it is a plea to
agencies to wake up and smell the espresso.
When you are out to lunch or dinner, the most important factors are the
way that you are treated and the ambience.
The food is almost always secondary to your enjoyment. If the soup was
lukewarm you would probably give the restaurant a second chance,
assuming that they were having an off night.
Would you, however, go back to a restaurant where the waiters were
surly, or where there was no atmosphere? Equally, would you recommend it
to anyone else?
The same is true of agencies. Increasingly, clients assume that the
agency they are using is capable of producing competent advertising (or
’integrated communications solutions’ to be politically correct).
But added to this, what they are really looking for is an agency where
they feel welcomed and valued as a customer rather than being dismissed,
or treated as an inconvenience.
How many times have you been to a restaurant with a reputation, only to
feel that they are doing you a favour by serving you?
Equally, ’we weren’t sure who was pitching to whom’ is a phrase I have
heard more than once about some agencies.
I was once told of an agency chief who went to the same restaurant every
day for two weeks. Every day he had to tell the same receptionist at the
restaurant who he was. As far as I know he hasn’t been back since. And
I’m sure that lesson was passed on to the people manning his
The best restaurants do not make you feel inadequate. How many times
have you had to ask about a particularly exotic-sounding dish on the
menu, only to discover that it is basically posh chicken stew? Are we
impressed by this? I think not.
And yet do we not do the same, introducing mystifying jargon to explain
our latest commercial and strategic insight, which often leaves the
client too embarrassed to ask for a translation?
For some, the reputation of a head chef can often be an inducement, but
we are not naive enough to think that he is actually making our
Clients have become equally aware. The days of being seduced by the
Pitch Dream Team are long gone. They want to meet the people who are
going to be serving them, day in, day out.
There are as many good restaurants as there are good agencies. The
client’s choice is as varied as the restaurant patron’s. Some of us
might try the latest trendy eaterie just to say we’ve been, but in the
end we will always return to those places where we feel most
And, most importantly, we will pay the service charge happily.
Martin Jones is the managing director of the AAR.