Let The Agencies Disagree With Your View
One of my favorite TV shows is predictably “Mad Men”. An amazing orgy of advertising’s best days. In one episode
the Hero-Don Listens to a client and pushes back on her interpretation of his
creative work. The client, a strong willed retailer, goes stern and the ad man
storms out in protest. Gripping stuff!
These shows must have the same effect on ad people as a live game does
on die hard soccer fans.
Sadly though, a lot of what is shown in this show remains
fiction. Gone are the days when many an agency would walk out of a client
meeting on strategic or creative principle or spend endless nights trying to
persuade client to a strategic direction. Clients have also lost the energy to
haggle with agencies on creative or strategic direction as many have very
narrow or strict guidelines as to what their communication should look and
sound like. Any creativity outside these guidelines is therefore seen as
subversion. Literally the agency going on a fancy of its own.
Globalization and branding have a lot to do with this state
of affairs. When companies have to communicate over several markets they are
forced to structure in ways that serve them to allow standardization and
unified interpretation of their brands.
This is great as you can`t trust the agency and brand team in Gambia to
deliver the same standards as the team in London. This way the MNC is able to deliver communication that looks
the same and sounds the same across several markets. This however removes the
ability for real local flavor in the communication and thus a lost opportunity
to connect. Marketing directors operating many markets consider this a small
loss considering the alternatives.
Branding as a business has also created straight jacket
approaches to delivering brands. The guidelines on what a brand should look and
sound like can be strict and rigid enough to discourage any creativity. What
this often overlooks is that brands are often dynamic and contextual.
Agencies serving these companies are often at a loss when a
global campaign they know will not work locally is shoved down their throats.
Local brand managers resent this situation too as it often makes them play a
field with one leg tied. Their local competitors have a field day delivering
locally relevant ads while they are forced to run ads with scenes from polo
tournaments or camel races abroad.
Agencies face a tough situation here as they have to either
do as the client wishes or turn down the work. In many days gone when an agency
discovered it had a huge disagreement with client approach they resigned the account.
Today, on account of international relationships most agencies may protest the
direction and revert with a schedule for signature to deliver ads that they
know will do little for the brands. That makes financial sense . In any case
sister agencies elsewhere are running the same ads.
Clients may have a huge stake in building a bit of gut in
their agencies. If the agency
feels very strongly about something do pay attention. What seems like insubordination is really passion for their
brand and your results. In some instances, especially where the client team is
subject to regular changes, the only real continuity for the brand may actually
be at the agency. I know agency people who have worked on some brands longer
than any senior marketing clients in the companies they serve. That often means that they have longer
experience than those who instruct them. Tough stuff but that is agency life.
A YES agency is a dangerous place to hang out. An agency that
never argues with you may be in that situation for some very simple reasons. A
lack of knowledge, a lack of enthusiasm or both. We rarely fight over things we
don’t care about. Agencies are often the most opinionated suppliers on your
list .Beware when they say nothing or continuously agree with you.