In tribute to the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, M&C Saatchi took out a full page advert to declare her "the best client we ever had". So The Drum turned to the industry to find out what (other than the obvious financial aspects) makes a a great client.
According to Russ Lidstone, CEO of Havas Worldwide London, there is no clear formula for a great client, but he says that good ones do possess consistent traits that he described as 'the Five Cs' - commercial, collaborative, consistency, creatively objective and candid. "The best clients get the best out of their agency partners because they respect them as partners, not suppliers and because when it comes to ideas - they discuss not dictate," explains Lidstone. "It's important for them to be candid too as then you always know what they think of believe. There should not be any hidden agendas and no need to second guess."
Trust is another issue, according to Jon Priest, CEO of market research agency SPA Future Thinking, who uses his work with former BSkyB marketing strategy director and now insight director for Paddy Power, Danny Russell, as an example. "Danny trusted us early in our relationship and that gave us confidence to deliver great work for him - he also ensured our work was show-cased to Sky's executive board. He was always straight, honest and above all fair. He was also a real pain in the arse on occasions. Yet, if things went awry he never blamed his agency arguing it was his rap, not ours but to bloody well sort it out. For these and other reasons to this day he remains the only client I have ever entertained at home."
And when it comes to trust, that goes both ways, as Ian McAteer, chairman of The Union explains, while discussing his working with Jim Spowart when he was managing director of Standard Life Bank. "He had faith in us as a tiny start-up agency in 1997 and we launched Standard Life Bank which went on to big success they sold for £226m. Not bad."Then he had faith in us again and we created from scratch Intelligent Finance (if.com) which went on to pioneer the offset mortgage and had a huge share of the UK mortgage market at its height. Jim was loyal to Scottish agencies, loyal to his team and us, a creative thinker in financial services and I'm pleased to say we still stay in touch, even though he's enjoying his retirement."
Meanwhile, working with a business you fully believe in, meaning your company has bought into their work ahead of even beginning, can be a powerful motivator, says Jonathan Trimble, CEO of ad agency 18 Feet & Rising (left in picture). Trimble shared his enjoyment of working with Stephen Greene, CEO and co-founder of RockCorps, a brand communications platform it has partnered with since 2006. "I like and believe in the product. It twists marketing as a force for good, maybe even business itself...He [Greene] combines doing good with AAA rockstar status. We drink yellow label until late at The Soho Hotel bar where he has a cocktail named after him. He flies our people around the world to see the gigs and the impact of their creative. When the business moved into 18 Feet & Rising we had an argument where I fired him - as he pointed out 'before I'd even hired you' - something we both agreed was quite cool."
Singing from a similar hymn sheet is Ryan Newey, creative director, Fold7: "From the beginning, we've always loved working with challenger brands, whether they be ones that are launching for the first time, or established ones that are trying to reach a new audience, or break into a new market. These brands possess the bravery and the desire to make a real impact and that's what can help make for truly brilliant advertising."In the words of Henry Ford, 'If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got'. Any client that would wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment and have a challenger mindset would be one of our favourite clients to work with."
Sometimes the best clients are the most straightforward ones who know what they want are open in what they expect of their agency. So says Clive Baker, managing director of mobile agency Movement of working alongside Tom Daly, group director, global connections at Coca-Cola. “Right from our first meeting, Tom was clear and concise about the opportunities for Coca-Cola in mobile and how he wanted to work with us to achieve them. He has real ambitions for how his company can use mobile and his knowledge is both wide and deep.“Fundamentally, he gets it. His agency background in New York means he respects what we do, gives us honest feedback and knows when to praise and when to push. It’s a rare client who sees the real possibilities of mobile, not just in marketing but across all things commercial, but Tom is one of them.”Clients are the lifeblood for every marketing services agency, be they politicians, banks or burger bars. Ultimately they pay the bills, but they also demand and inspire creativity for the good of both businesses.