:that can weather any economic storm
The late Steve Jobs understood how marketing builds a brand and had a long, and satisfying union with his advertising agency. Together, they were a model of client-agency relationships which gave birth to incredible campaigns including “1984” and “Think Different”.
For his agency, Steve Jobs must have been an exciting partner. Jobs was a marketer with guts and an innovative spirit that carried his agency along on a wave of success as his brand grew in ways nobody even anticipated. And yet, it has also been said that the most interesting parts of the Apple founder’s biography were about the “friction” between Jobs and his agency executives.
So, what does it take for us - clients and agencies - to maintain a happy-ever-after relationship?
As in many ideal marriages, we must have trust on both sides. Clients trust in our years of advertising experience, and we trust in our clients’ market experience. The lesson to be learned: let’s stay within our own area of expertise; poking our noses into each other’s business can only invite unnecessary stress.
We must remember that our clients depend on us to bring our best to the table – creative ways of transforming marketing data into consumer friendly messages that sell – but they’re not supposed to spoon-feed us, or be our excuse for procrastination, e.g. ‘clients are still on holiday’.
Clients, in turn, must believe that we are not out to discredit their product, or have some hidden agendas designed to benefit us more than them. Trust is earned, and both of us should try and give each other the benefit of the doubt. We are, after all, shooting for the same goal – success for the brand.
Mutual respect is another must-have of a good relationship. When we respect our clients’ intimate knowledge of their own brands, we tend to value their inputs and listen to concerns they may have along the way. While clients who respect our creative expertise, and recognise our technical skills, are more objective when judging our work, and end up getting really great results from us. Asking for more and more options “along the same line” does not really show professional maturity.
Another area where respect is needed from both sides is the financial aspect of the client-agency relationship. This is a one-on-one, day-in, day-out series of matches where only the most resourceful players win. Often, we are made to abide by company policies that are not similar to our own, and have to adjust and sometimes go against what we normally follow internally. And when everything went downhill after the credit crunch of 2009, agencies have had to adjust to more and more demands, while earning less and less.
As in any professional partnership, work must be acknowledged according to pre-agreed terms, with both parties showing each other respect by sticking to their resolutions. Life is difficult enough as it is, without one partner trying to get out of an agreement with the other partner. Like when a husband gives his wife a box of chocolates instead of the pearl necklace he promised her because he suddenly decided the pearls were too expensive and he would rather save the money for their coming anniversary. For most of us, the prospect of future gain hardly makes up for the present loss of revenue.
Relationships can thrive when we encourage each other to see beyond what we know, to what we can learn from each other. Recognising that there are more than just one way of doing things, that no one holds the patent on the perfect solution, are desirable elements of a long-lasting partnership. So let’s embrace the concept that neither one of us knows everything, but together, we know a lot.
Transparency became a buzzword during the global financial crisis when banks and investment managers were discovered to be keeping secrets. For clients and agencies, more transparency guarantees less misunderstandings and expensive amendments. Developing strategies together create brighter prospects for success and a more honest exchange of observations reduces paranoia and increases productivity. All in all, a mutually beneficial relationship that will surely stand the test of time.