Editorial: Give new clients a chance to settle in

New-client syndrome. It's a phenomenon so reviled and now so common (see p18), agencies have given it a name. The disease-like moniker indicates the frustration agencies reserve for the rapid turnover of management in the marketing community. And well they might. As the incumbent agency, it will be necessary at least to win over the client to your way of thinking and develop a strong working relationship, and quick - a process that will probably involve a lot of time and perhaps money.

Incumbent agencies are vulnerable on two fronts when a new marketer arrives.

News of a new senior marketer at a major advertiser triggers a flurry of action from their advertising rivals smelling the possibility of a new-business opportunity.

Diligent new-business directors and chief executives with a talent for schmoozing prospects will be bombarding the new recruit long before they arrive at the new post.

Of course, any responsible new client will conduct a review of their department and the suppliers that they have inherited.

Nevertheless, like some diseases, the fear of new clients is greater than it needs to be. In reality, the majority of clients who join a new company do not call an advertising pitch. There is a handful of clients, with profiles bolstered by multiple appearances in the trade press, who do appear to devote a disproportionate amount of time to their advertising agency relationships and are more prone to reviewing the ad accounts in their control. But their high profiles make such zealousness seem more common than it is.

Indeed, a much more significant number of client companies have corporate, rather than personal, relationships with their agencies. J. Walter Thompson, for instance, has worked with Kellogg, Unilever, Nestle and Kimberly-Clark for decades. Individual marketers have come and gone, but the business relationship transcends any individuals. Agencies that source new accounts from the kinds of clients who change jobs and call pitches regularly will lose those accounts with as much regularity as they pick them up. What goes around comes around.

It would be far better for the industry if new-business directors left marketers to settle down with their new agencies and resisted the urge to ambulance chase. After all, it's not uncommon to find that advertising agencies know more about the business history, marketing strategy and development of their clients' brands than the newly arrived, short-lived marketers they have to work with can ever hope to.


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