JB

Campaign Middle East - - NEWS -

Our new client sends out briefs on a Post-it note. I know some of the best briefs can be writ­ten on just one page. But this is a Post-it note! Even my cre­atives who nor­mally have no pa­tience for any­thing much longer than a page want more than what is scrib­bled on 3x3 inches of coloured pa­per. What do I say to this new client? Some of the best briefs in the world can be scrib­bled on a Post-it note, but only if the scrib­bler is a ge­nius. Or an ex­cep­tion­ally tal­ented ac­count plan­ner. Your new client seems to be nei­ther: just work- shy. But, it be­ing a new client, I as­sume you’re keen to im­press. ( This is not to im­ply that you treat older clients slightly less at­ten­tively, though you prob­a­bly do. I’m afraid it’s the way of the world.)

I sug­gest that you per­son­ally, or your ac­count plan­ner, am­plify your client’s Post-it notes to the point where they pro­vide ad­e­quate guid­ance for your cre­atives – and then pass them back to your client for ap­proval. I doubt if he ( I just can’t imag­ine a woman be­ing so shift­less) will give them more than a cur­sory glance be­fore signing them off with his fancy sig­na­ture. ( How do I know he has a fancy sig­na­ture? Be­cause I’ve come across his type be­fore and they al­ways do.)

You’ll both earn his grat­i­tude and re­tain en­vi­able con­trol over the na­ture and di­rec­tion of the work. ( If the work doesn’t work, how­ever, you may soon find your­self look­ing for a re­place­ment new client.) I am a mid-level mar­keter work­ing for a legacy brand with a long his­tory. Our sales have been fall­ing for years and any­one with any in­sight can see that we sim­ply do not chime with to­day’s con­sumers in the same way. I want to ar­gue for an ex­ten­sive over­haul of our propo­si­tion, but the cul­ture in the com­pany is very con­ser­va­tive. Should I speak up or look for a job some­where else? I’m glad you’ve dis­missed the op­tion of keep­ing your head down and tak­ing the money; that’s a deeply un­sat­is­fac­tory way to spend 40- some­thing hours a week. If you ever wa­ver, just cast your mind for­ward an­other 30 years to your re­tire­ment party: that should give you the shiv­ers.

But be­fore you brush up your CV, make sure you’ve done a proper au­dit of your com­pany’s sec­ondlevel ex­ec­u­tives. It seems highly un­likely that, as a mid-level mar­keter, you’re the only per­son with enough in­sight to spot the brand’s ev­i­dent fail­ings. It’s much more likely that there’s an old-time, re­pres­sive chief ex­ec­u­tive whose very pres­ence stif les con­struc­tive com­ment and keeps mod­ernisers muted.

So be­fore you stick your head above the para­pet and get promptly de­cap­i­tated, see if you can iden­tify a few of those wait­ing in the wings and make com­mon cause with them. It may not be as heroic as a lone stand, but it’s a great deal more likely to have a happy end­ing. Dear Jeremy, I’m re­ally start­ing to lose pa­tience with po­ten­tial clients who are not up­front about their mar­ket­ing bud­gets ahead of a pitch. It just seems like they’re try­ing to get cre­ative ideas on the cheap. We can all talk about turn­ing down bad clients but there’s al­ways some­one who will de­base them­selves for the sake of a ‘win’. Is there more that agen­cies can do col­lec­tively other than rely on trade bod­ies? I’m afraid I’m about to get lofty. I’m sorry about that, but there are times when a cer­tain lofti­ness is nec­es­sary, and this is one.

The client/agency re­la­tion­ship is not an even-handed one. It never has been and it never will be. Rag­ing against clients who ex­ploit their in­her­ent ad­van­tage is ut­terly point­less. It will make you un­happy and very pos­si­bly in­duce gas­tric ul­cers. Gang­ing up against them is even more fu­tile; it just draws at­ten­tion to our es­sen­tial pow­er­less­ness. Pow­er­less groups vainly seek­ing unattain­able sol­i­dar­ity end up be­ing seen to be ridicu­lous.

But we don’t have to be losers. Agen­cies can be of in­es­timable value to clients – and of­ten are. Our strength re­sides in our abil­ity to make our­selves in­valu­able and to do so in a well-man­nered way. It seems to me to be en­tirely rea­son­able that a trade whose trade is per­sua­sion should have enough faith in its own per­sua­sive pow­ers to be able to sur­vive and pros­per.

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