The best clients respect the process, the agency and their own judgment. And yet, most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting to great creative. As a Brand Leader, if you knew that showing up better would get you better advertising, do you think you could? Or are you stuck being one of these types of Clients?
I come at this from the vantage of a fellow client. I’m not an Ad Agency guy, never having worked a day at an agency in my life. But I’ve seen all these types of clients. I’d like you to laugh a little and think “hey I know that guy”. But I’d also like if you see a little of yourself in a few of these and if you’re into personal growth and improvement, challenge yourself to get better and stop being that guy.
I get asked a lot: “So what is it that makes someone good at advertising?”. I always think people are looking for some type of magical answer, but the answer I give is always very simple yet if you think about it very complex: “They can consistently get good advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air”.
Most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting great creative. If there are 100 steps in every advertising development stage and you show up OK at each step, how are you possibly thinking you’ll end up with a GREAT ad at the end? Did you ensure that your team has a very tight creative brief that’s based on insights and instincts? Were you fully engaged and motivating to everyone that touches the brand? Were you a proactive decision maker who provided necessary challenge and direction in the spirit of making the work better? Did you push it up and through the system and gain approval from management?
Here are the 10 Worst Types of Clients
#1: “You’re The Expert”:
While intended to be a compliment to the Agency, it’s a total cop-out! 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: “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’s 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?
#3: Jekyll & Hyde:
When Brand Leaders bring major mood swings to the Ad process, it’s very hard for the agency. 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. Brand Leaders have to stay consistent so that everyone knows exactly who they are dealing with.
#4: The Constant “Bad Mood”:
I’ve seen clients bring the death stare to creative meetings where hilarious scripts are presented to a room of fear and utter silence. Brand Leader must motivate all those who touch their brand. Be the favorite client that people want to work for. Advertising should be fun. If you are having fun, then so will your consumer.
#5: The Mystery Man that’s 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.
#6: The dictator:
Revel in ambiguity and enjoy the Unknown. Great ads ‘make the brand feel different’. If we knew the answer, it wouldn’t be different, would it? If a Brand Leader comes in with the exact ad, 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 they agency, then there two answers: YES and NO.
#7: The Mandatories:
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. My challenge to Brand Leaders is if you write a very good brief, you don’t need a list of Mandatories.
#8: The Kitchen Sink.
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. When you try to speak to everyone, you end up speaking to no one.
#9: Keeps Changing Their Mind:
Advertising is best when driven by a sound process. It’s creativity within a box. And if the box keeps changing, you’ll never see the best creative work.
#10: The Scientist:
Some clients think THERE IS AN ANSWER. And the world of SEO and Digital seems to be encouraging this mindset more than ever. Where you might see precision, I see navel gazing. Be careful of navel gazing analytics. You might miss blue-sky big picture or the freight train about to run you over. As a Brand Leader, you can’t always get THE answer. Too much in marketing eliminates risk, rather than encourages risk taking. That only helps you sleep better, but you’ll dream less.
You likely have the best intentions for your business. And you likely believe that having a good relationship with the agency is crucial and you work at it. But if you suffer from any of these, you might be holding back your contributions into the process.
Here’s a presentation on How to Be a Better Client
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