They say clients get the work they deserve. If you knew that being a better client would get you better Advertising, could you show up better? Would you actually show up better? There’s a reason why there are so many Agency Reviews: clients can’t really fire themselves. However, if you fire your current Agency and then you don’t show up better to the new Agency, they will be doomed to fail from the start. And the cycle will continue.
I believe that most Brand Leaders under-estimate their role in getting great advertising creative. I have seen OK agencies make great work for an amazing client. I have also seen the best agencies fail dramatically for a bad client. My conclusion: the client matters more than anyone else, as they hold the power in either enabling or restricting impactful advertising from happening. Great clients communicate their desires with passion to inspire their Agency; they hold everyone accountable to the strategy and stay open to explore new solutions through creativity. Great clients are wiling to stake their reputation on great work. If you knew that being a better client would get you better work, do you think you could show up better?
The 10 worst types of Advertising clients
#1: Clients who say: “You’re The Expert”
While intended to be a compliment to the Agency, it is actually a total cop-out by the client! You really just give the agency enough rope to hang themselves. As a Brand Leader, you play a major role in the process. You have to be engaged in every stage of the process and in the work. Bring your knowledge of the brand, make clear decisions and steer the work towards greatness.
#2: Clients who say: “I never Liked the Brief”
These passive-aggressive clients are usually insecure about their own abilities in the advertising space. They keep firing their agency instead of taking ownership, because it is easier to fire the agency than fire yourself. A great Brand Leader never approves work they don’t love. If you don’t love the work, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand? As the decision maker, you can never cop-out, and you never have the right to say “I never liked…”
#3: Clients who have a Jekyll & Hyde personality
When Brand Leaders bring major mood swings to the Ad process, it is very hard for the agency. While clients are “rational” people, agencies are emotional and prone to your mood swings. The worst thing that could happen is when your mood swing alters the work and you end up going into a direction you never intended to go, just based on a bad day you had. The best Brand Leaders stay consistent so that everyone knows exactly who they are dealing with.
#4: The Constant “Bad Mood” client
I have seen clients bring their death stare to creative meetings where hilarious scripts are presented to a room of fear and utter silence. The best Brand Leaders should strive to be their agency’s favorite client. For an odd reason, no one ever thinks that way. Advertising should be fun. If you are having fun, then so will your consumer.
#5: Pleasing the mysterious “boss” who is not in the room
When the real decision maker is not in the room, everyone guesses what might please that decision maker. As a Brand Leader, you have to make decisions that you think are the right thing, not what your boss might say. Make the ad you want and then find a way to gain alignment and approval from your boss. And if you are the boss who is not in the room, let the creative process unfold and hope that it pleasantly surprises you.
#6: The dictator client
The best ads “make the brand feel different”. If we knew the answer before the process started, the ads would never be different, would they? When a Brand Leader comes in with the exact ad in mind, then it’s not really a creative process, it just becomes an order taking process. When you TELL the agency what to do, there is only one answer: YES. But when you ASK the agency what you should do, there are many answers. When they come back to you with many, it makes your job of selecting the best, much easier. Revel in the ambiguity of the process, let the work happen.
#7: The long list of Mandatories client
Clients who put 5-10 mandatories on the brief forces the agency to figure out your needs instead of the advertising problem. You end up with a Frankenstein. I have seen briefs that say no comedy, must use Snookie, setting must be a pharmacy, put our new lemon flavor in the ad, must include a demo. My challenge to Brand Leaders is that if you write an amazing creative brief, you won’t need any mandatories at all.
#8: The kitchen sink client
The “just in case” clients who want to speak to everyone with everything they can possibly say. If you put everything in your ad, you just force the consumer to make the decision on what’s most important. Consumers now see 7,000 brand messages every day, yet only engage in a handful each day. When you try to be everything to everyone, you end up nothing to anyone.
#9: The client who keeps changing their mind
Advertising is best when driven by a sound process, with enough time to develop ideas against a tight strategy. Think of it as creativity within a box. However, clients that keep changing the box will never see the best creative work. The best Brand Leaders control the brand strategy and give freedom on the execution.
#10: The Scientist client
Some clients think THERE IS AN ANSWER. The world of SEO and Digital tracking and advertising testing seems to be encouraging this mindset more than ever. Where you might think “precision”, I see navel gazing. Be careful giving up your instincts to the analytics. You might miss the blue-sky big picture or the freight train about to run you over. As a Brand Leader, you can’t always have THE answer. Too much in marketing eliminates risk, rather than encourages risk taking. That might help you sleep better, but you’ll dream less. Revel in the ambiguity of the process. It is ok to know exactly what you want. Just not until you see it.
Being a better client is something you can learn.
Advertising takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. Ask for advice. Watch others who are great. Never give your Agency new solutions, just give them new problems. Inspire greatness from your Agency; yet never be afraid to challenge them for better work. They would prefer to be pushed rather than held back. Be your agency’s favorite clients, so the agency team wants to work on your brand, not just because they were assigned to work on your business. Think with strategy. Act with instincts. Follow your passion. Be the champion who fights for great work even if you have to fight with your boss. Make work that you love, because if you don’t love the work, how do you ever expect the consumer to love your brand?
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