Posts Tagged ‘creative presentation and evaluation

15
Dec
15

Can’t Say No? Say What You Know.

Look into the mission statement of many an ad agency, and you’ll find some kind of happy talk about “serving our clients.” In many instances, this boils down to demoting your business model from Consultant to Vendor. Now, maybe you see this as a non-issue. I’ve heard more than one agency head conclude that if a client wants to spend three times as much for work a design studio can do, that’s their problem.

To which I say, “hogwash.”

For one thing, doing so amounts to fraud. By demoting yourself to Vendor while charging Consultant fees, you’re participating in the fiction that your clients get full value for their money. But at the end of the year, when the shop-worn nonsense you agreed to fails to move the needle, someone on the client side is bound to notice. Are you planning to say, “Don’t blame us, we’re just the Vendor”?

This phenomenon explains why many high-value accounts bounce from agency to agency like a basketball on steroids. Ironically, it often happens that the creatives from the latest agency bounce with the account to the next. That’s because in today’s literal-minded environment, who’s better qualified to work on an account than the person who last participated in its demise?

And that, mind you, is despite the insistent drum-beat of agencies seeking new hires with “fresh thinking.”

Business model 1: Self-abasement
Now, I’ve heard the counter argument many times. It’s about needing a particular client in the portfolio to attract similar clients. Or it may be about having a complete roster of product categories covered because, again, in today’s literal-minded environment, a cookie brand will never hire an agency with only cracker experience.

But I’ve also heard near-death exhaustion in the voices of entire agency teams, when they’re driven to the edge of insanity by abusive clients who are:

• Obsessive-compulsive
• Money-grubbing
• Lacking in visual imagination
• Willfully ignorant of the limits of language

…and possessed, shall we say, of colossal egos.

Yet, even clients with a more humane attitude can drag your work down out of gross incompetence. As long as I live, I’ll never understand why the study of marketing effectively includes no meaningful introduction to the principles of visual and verbal communication.

After 22 years, I can count on the joints of one pinkie the number of “experienced brand managers” who didn’t need to be reminded, at each presentation, that water is wet, the stove is hot, and a Web site is not an a-dimensional repository of novel-length marketing blurbage.

Of course, by now, I hear someone in the back of the room shouting, “That’s fine, but we have to deal with what is, if we want to stay in business!”

Business model 2: Collaboration.
Right. And there’s always room for compromise in any collaboration. But the first step to preventing Abusive Client Syndrome is establishing that collaborative relationship from the start and insisting on it all the way down the line.

Even when your client is a classic Type-A personality, there are things every agency must do if we have any hope of reversing the industry-wide trend toward ground-eating serfdom.

Above all else, refuse to be silenced. You can’t win every point, but never refrain from laying out the truth. Over time, I’ve seen the phrase “pick your battles” morph from a savvy management strategy into a cowardly avoidance strategy. Try attracting top talent with an attitude like that.

A commitment to standards.
Of course, client management begins with actually retaining clients. But even if you feel you can’t say No to your more difficult clients, you can say What You Know and make it concrete with tangible examples. You may not achieve all your goals, but you’ll establish a basis of respect for your expertise.

And that can be tough—partly because the more persuasive you are, the more irritation you’re liable to cause. But it’s the only thing that will keep your agency from losing its creative edge. Because the mandate to say “yes” at all costs is the very death of creative thinking.

If that seems too difficult to pull off, you may have fallen victim to the language of acquiescence. “We don’t want to spin our wheels,” I hear, or “we don’t want to dilute our efforts,” or a thousand other platitudes that exist solely to make the spine-extraction process less painful. But as it stands, your only prayer of working with the clients you deserve is to say What You Know at every turn.




Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY

m.laporta@verizon.net
LinkedIn

Archives

______________________________

Enter your email address to receive notification of new posts.

______________________________
______________________________
Top Marketing Sites
Blogarama - The Blog Directory
Marketing Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Alltop, all the top stories
HE Blog Directory
WEB LOG SHOW
Subscribe in Bloglines
Add to Google Reader or Homepage
______________________________
______________________________