Soap Box

By The Drum, Administrator

May 28, 2003 | 3 min read

In the current economic climate most agencies are probably guilty of attempting to cling to the vestiges of every last client account, despite the fact that in many cases they are only too aware that their professional integrity is being compromised.

It goes without saying, of course, that a client?s failure to pay gives immediate grounds for resigning an account but there are other reasons, aside from a simple lack of payment, that should force agencies to consider whether the time has come to terminate a particular relationship, something that takes courage in more straitened times.

It goes with the territory that most agencies at some stage will have experienced what is euphemistically described in the press as differences in strategic direction. In practice, it means that the two parties are no longer able to agree about the creative work required to achieve the client?s objectives, whether it be in terms of branding or simply selling more product.

In the agency?s eyes, its client is no longer allowing it to get on with the job that it originally pitched for and any advice proffered falls on deaf ears.

At this stage, the professional agency/client relationship has already broken down and the agency has, to all intents and purposes, been reduced to the status of supplier rather than partner or consultant.

The terminal decline of what was once a successful partnership may simply be attributed to the appointment of a new staff member on the client side, who could be an individual who insists on being in control of every aspect of any work that goes out.

The real danger is that the client becomes the target audience as the agency tries harder to ensure it can get work through, whether it is right for the true target audience or not. This is a very short-term tactic that will only result in the agency being sacked at some later date because the product is not selling (hardly surprising).

As George Lois once famously said to a client when he was having difficulty selling a poster for matzo crackers, ?You make the matzos, I?ll make the ads!?

All agencies at some time will have had the same thought but few will have been brave enough to actually say it when a client insists on having work done his or her way. After all, any good agency employs only skilled, intelligent account handlers, who are au fait with planning and research, whose knowledge of different markets has been gained using consumer insight and not client subjectivity. Likewise, good agencies recruit and nurture the best creative people around. Not precious or arty but clever, trained people, who know how vital it is that their work grabs people?s attention and sells the product.

The very best clients are those who let the agency get on with its job. If clients are unconvinced that their agency possesses high-calibre people it can trust and listen to, then they should find an agency that does and is.

Likewise, when an agency thinks it is being prevented from doing what it thinks is the best job for the client, they should walk away and find a ?better? client. No excuses, no whinging, no regrets.


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