Katherine Levy: Agencies must sell themselves as well as they sell clients

By Katherine Levy, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 11 October 2012 08:00AM

Gaston, a French chocolatier, owns a shop on a street in Paris.

Katherine Levy: Agencies must sell themselves as well as they sell clients

This street is famous for chocolate shops and tourists come in their droves. They walk up and down, breathing in the sweet smells of molten cocoa and sugar, and gazing at the shop windows with discerning eyes. The shops, each with a young man outside responsible for tempting customers in, are at the top of their craft, including Gaston's. But Gaston's boy is not a gifted charmer. What a shame, because Gaston makes the best chocolate pralines in Paris. But you would never know that because Gaston's chocolate shop went bust and now he is a taxi driver.

This story could serve as an analogy for media agencies. All media agencies are in a constant battle to lure customers into their emporiums. It is a given that the product has to be great to ultimately tempt new business in (it would have a bad reputation otherwise). But what a shame when the product is good but the person responsible for attracting new clients is not brilliant, but just average.

Media chiefs: here's a question. How much importance do you place on recruiting the best new-business and marketing director you can find? Do you give it as much attention as you do when hiring a new managing director, creative director or chief technology officer? If not, you could be costing yourself literally millions of pounds in missed opportunities.

It seems that sometimes we forget the new-business director is the gatekeeper to our companies. Log on to an agency's website and you don't get a hotline to the chief executive, but you will typically see just one direct number, belonging to the new-business and marketing director. If that person is not charming, bright and, crucially, able to unpick the impenetrable media discourse that we speak so that clients understand what the experts inside are saying, then, frankly, you're better off doing the job yourself.

This year, the chief executives, commercial directors, creative directors, heads of strategy, digital directors and agency founders who sat and read the entries for the Campaign Media Awards in order to judge them were left feeling deflated by the overall quality of the written documents themselves. As one judge put it, a surprising number of entries were, stylistically speaking, "turgid". Entries that were lucid, well-structured, concise and even visually exciting were rare.

What a shame that an industry that sweats over producing and sharing clever, creative and surprising work does not give the same consideration and dedication to its own marketing. Because, whether it's an awards entry or it's a new-business pitch, it should be at least a matter of honour, if not a compulsion, to sell your own product as well as you sell that of your clients.

katherine.levy@haymarket.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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