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Gordon Young
Editor-in-chief at The Drum

Cannes Lions: Mondelez senior vice president of marketing & comms Dana Anderson talks client/agency relationships and pitching

"We can see into each other's worlds and I've come to the conclusion that we don't see in very well," Dana Anderson, senior vice president of marketing strategy and communications has said of the client/agency relationship.

Speaking at this year's Cannes Festival of Creativity, Anderson offered her thoughts on what clients should do when working with an agency and the relationship has "stalled" as well as what agencies should do when a review is called and they find themselves the incumbent.

Anderson's main message of discussing client/agency relationships was "collaboration" and "generosity" - neither of which she believed came natural to many people, highlighting a wildlife documentary clip featuring David Attenborough and some monkeys collaborating to prove they are superior at that than man.

"I want you to think about collaboration and the power of being one instead of two," she stated of the mentality for agencies and clients alike.

Of generosity she highlighted the work of George Myers, a writer for The Simpsons who she said shared his jokes with other writers and refused a credit on the show for 10 years, which inspired his team, in order to show its success. She also compared the world of marketing to that of comedy, comparing the comedian's unspoken rule if showing appreciation for one another while on stage together; "If you're in the family you give it up. I often think of the lessons of generosity in that business for our business."

In discussing the decision for brands to pitch, she advices that they don't, but rather find the solution to what is making them unhappy and have a conversation with the agency in order to change it.

"If going ahead, you need to call bullshit on a bullshit strategy," she advised. "if the brief is bad you need to say something." She later added that "A bad brief is a map to nowhere and if this is your last fight then fight it all the way - don't accept a brief that you don't believe in."

Anderson added that an incumbent working in a pitch will not be able to change into "something new" in the space of a few weeks, and to not to expect them to be able to make the necessary changes in order to retain the business.

"When the incumbents stays in they have the old script, all the rules about the brand and all the rules we said we never do. Never say you have to leave that behind. Incumbents can't change their thinking enough to be new and being new is what agencies what to be."

In a talk littered with soundbites, she also stated that a "fearful client" would only mean the creation of "a fearful agency" and was happy to offer advice to agencies and clients alike.

Asked whether, when she was agency side, she had every fired a client, Anderson confirmed she had during a restructure of the agency, and told those in the room not to be scared of making such a big decision. "When you takes steps of integrity your clients respect you for it," Anderson claimed.

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