THE TWENTY WORST THINGS A CLIENT CAN SAY TO ITS AGENCY
I recently sat down to have a beer and a burger with two friends. One is a top-notch marketer and President of a FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) division. The other a very savvy, former division GM of an ad agency. Both are marketing professors at the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism. We got to talking about client-agency relationships. It inspired my recollections of some of the worst things I’ve heard clients say to their agencies. What have you heard that I’ve missed? Are there worse things a client can say?
- The false start – Thank you agency for coming in today. I can see you’ve done a lot of “great” work. BUT …
- The blind leading the blind – I don’t like it. I don’t know why. I just know I don’t like it.
- Indecisive – I wonder what our VP of marketing will think?
- Killing the idea – Let’s take the headline from this one and marry it with the visual from that one.
- Prescriptive strategy talk – Make the key copy words say …
- Consensus – Our sales manager doesn’t like it.
- Non-Professional – My wife/husband doesn’t like it. (How about: My kids don’t understand it.)
- More is less – We’ve added another benefit that we want you to capture (and/or add two more reasons-to-believe).
- Lack of clarity in direction – Let’s “tweak”(or “strengthen”) the benefit.
- Squeezing time for creative development – We’re on an extremely tight time schedule. We need a surround-sound campaign in two months to support our launch.
- The after the fact police review – We’ll need to run the creative by regulatory (or our ad board) to get their input on whether we can communicate our benefit.
- Multi-meetings with those who can only say, “No!” – Let’s schedule a meeting with me and my immediate team, then another with my brand manager, then we’ll take it to the VP for her/his approval.
- Management by marketing research – We have several hurdles we need to clear in marketing research.
- Mis-use of marketing research – While we had good purchase interest with our target-audience, the advertising didn’t do well with all-category users.
- The conventional wisdom – Yes, I know we said our advertising needs to be different, but has anyone done this before? I don’t want to be first.
- More on More is less – We also need to include safety and tolerability in our headline (or ad).
- Micro-managing – Can you make the headline larger.
- Perceived safe approach – Let’s feature a visual of the consumer (patient) smiling or showcase the surgeon and/or prominently display our medical device.
- All for naught – Our ad budget has been cut for the remainder of the year!
- Firing the agency – We’re opening our account for review.
Perhaps, this last thing, “We’re opening our account for review,” might be welcome relief since clients who make the aforementioned comments are unlikely to enable the agency to do its best work. As the saying goes, “clients get the advertising they deserve.” The legendary Bill Bernbach, Creative Director and one of the founders of the agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), would not take on a client whose product did not live up to its advertising. It is also claimed that he went so far as to have fired a client for not accepting what Bill believed was compelling advertising from his agency.