PERSPECTIVE: Agencies need to treat their clients with more respect

This week’s leader gives what might be misinterpreted as a typical Campaign-biased view of adland, where the ’poor’ agency carries the can for the client’s problems. But for every Nationwide, there are a worrying number of stories revealing that some agencies - despite all the talk of wanting to be clients’ business partners, belt-tightened times and new, open working methods - are still living in cloud-cuckoo land when it comes to understanding their clients’ concerns. It’s a world in which pretty pictures and yellow pencils are the order of the day, and bullshit abounds because the end always justifies the means. It drives clients to distraction and eventually to seek alternatives to big ad agencies.

This week’s leader gives what might be misinterpreted as a typical

Campaign-biased view of adland, where the ’poor’ agency carries the can

for the client’s problems. But for every Nationwide, there are a

worrying number of stories revealing that some agencies - despite all

the talk of wanting to be clients’ business partners, belt-tightened

times and new, open working methods - are still living in cloud-cuckoo

land when it comes to understanding their clients’ concerns. It’s a

world in which pretty pictures and yellow pencils are the order of the

day, and bullshit abounds because the end always justifies the means. It

drives clients to distraction and eventually to seek alternatives to big

ad agencies.



Two tales from the past week illustrate the point. Believe us, there are

more. The first is a quote from last week’s Campaign: ’We shot the ads

in California using local props and American stylists to achieve a look

that could not be done over here. The colours, design and typography are

all very Californian.’ Please. If a stylist in Soho had sprinkled

raisins and pine-nuts over a lump of brie on a Pier Imports plate

against a pink background, adding the type on a Mac, what would have

been lost?



Maybe that’s why I’m not an art director. And perhaps my aversion to the

line ’sprinkle the wrinkles’ explains why I’m not a copywriter.



Tale two is more worrying. A major multinational household name’s client

team sells frivolous products, largely aimed at young women. It pays the

London office of a major multinational agency network pounds 47,000 a

month in fees since its international realignment. What might this

client expect from its investment? Possibly not the five successive

campaigns it’s had to turn down because the agency keeps presenting

Harrods when the brief is high street. Certainly not to have its

requests to meet the creatives who will work on the business refused.

Definitely not to have the account director turn her back on the

’humble’ brand manager (with ten years’ experience) in meetings.



The agency’s boss has already been summoned to meet the client to

resolve the situation. He didn’t help matters by oozing insincerity and

avoiding the issues. The client wants to move but is tied by the

international alignment. Almost certainly, things will get worse as

pressure mounts to get some work out. One day the client will probably

snap, appoint a small local shop and ask MindShare or similar to sort

out Europe.



We’re often asked why the likes of Rainey Kelly, St Luke’s and Mother

are doing so well. There are several answers available, including that

they behave as though they actually want the business.



But the one obvious trait they share is that they treat their clients

with a respect which is then reciprocated.



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