What could have prompted the withering put-down of Ogilvy & Mather
by its erstwhile client, Bupa Healthcare, which said it wanted to find a
new agency ’whereby we are an important client to them’? This, after
all, is from an advertiser with a pounds 4.7 million annual above-the-
line spend. Far from feeling unloved, you might have thought it was
being overwhelmed with affection.
Whatever Bupa’s reasons for flying the O&M coop to find a smaller
nesting place, its parting shot highlights the perpetual problem for
agencies of ensuring that every client feels cherished irrespective of
its size. It’s a tricky thing to manage, particularly as agencies grow
and big accounts arrive which threaten to dominate their portfolios and
change their structures and cultures.
Small wonder that existing clients worry about being shoved aside and no
longer having the agency’s top talent on their business. When Abbott
Mead Vickers BBDO won its first massive chunk of BT business, David
Abbott got a letter from Sainsbury’s. Congratulations, it said, before
going on to inquire if Abbott would continue writing its ads.
Similarly, some WCRS clients will probably need some extra hand-holding
after the agency scooped the pounds 20 million National Lottery
This is not to suggest that the onus rests entirely with agencies. While
it’s important for them to spread their best people across a broad range
of accounts, clients must realise that access to the agency’s top brains
comes with a price tag.
But it isn’t just about money. Clients who claim to have been unloved by
their agencies often haven’t played their part in establishing a
fruitful, two-way relationship. No client will get the best work out of
an agency whose respect it does not command.
In the end, though, agencies are like good restaurants. The food may be
mouth-watering but it’s the items not on the menu, like consistent and
attentive service, that keep the customers wanting more.