Wednesday, 24 June 2015

please join in, mr client

Do It Yourself. Just the initials make me shiver. D.I.Y. Tank-tops, sore thumbs and self-collapsing shelves, it’s no place for a grown man. Invariably you’re going to get a half-arsed job covered by that worst of phrases “cheap n cheerful.” Why is it so hard to understand? The reason we have experts is because we need them, desperately.

When you need something building, get a builder, when you need something fixing, get a fixer and when you need something advertising, get an adman, or woman, better still, an agency.

Bad advertising. It fills our lives like corrupt politicians permeating every part of our daily lives, from our breakfast paper to our night time TV it gets everywhere, leaving a bad smell and an evil taste in the mouth.

When I see bad ads I feel cheated. And not just of the wasted revenue. Of the opportunity, “who did this shit?” I shout from behind clenched fists. Who thought it up? Who sold it? And most of all which damned, irresponsible client bought it?
There’s a much trampled cliché that says clients get the advertising they deserve, a phrase which causes rabid scorn amongst clients world over
who believe it’s nothing more than another excuse from adland’s self-justification machine. And they may be right. But it doesn’t negate the truth underlying the cliché, clients get the ads they deserve because they expect too much of advertising.

All too often it’s expected to be some kind of all-soothing panacea, something to cure a company’s ailing balance sheets overnight or somehow fix a tired and lame business plan. If it was that easy our budgets would be soaring through recessions not being sliced as the first sacrifice.

A great failing on the client side is to take the proposed campaign around the office to garner reactions, “The Chairman’s Wife” theory as it’s known is based in the belief that anyone involved in the client company (and their spouses), could and indeed should have a say in the advertising. It’s a crap idea at best, would you let your plumber fix your lights? Or a painter fiddle with your pipes? Why then does the finance director get to comment on the advertising?
Advertising is a critical business tool, one that should only be undertaken by skilled and well-practiced professionals.

How about a bit of respect out there? As a client you hire adland talent because it can offer you expertise that you don’t possess yourself. So please, when your agency has a strong point of view they’re always being protectionist, sometime they’re being right, as you’ll discover if you listen. You hired them to make great ads, they want to make great ads and many of the great campaigns came from the agency “winning the argument.” By all means argue, and don’t for God’s sake always give in, but if you listen to their point of view and consider that they may be right occasionally too you may just form a working relationship that is productive rather than starting a war of attrition.

Take the creative approval process; if as a client you have been involved from the beginning and actively engaged in the creation of the ad then you’ll hopefully be familiar with the intricacies of the brief. This will obviously give you a big vote in the approval or otherwise of the campaign, you also have a responsibility to work with the agency to produce the best work possible. As one of the decision makers you need to make your opinion heard while sitting together with your team; it’s no good nipping off for a third or fourth arse-covering opinion round the water cooler and presenting it as a fait accompli.

There was a time, not in the dim and distant, when a marketing director sat on the main board of most companies, a seasoned professional trusted by the company to call the shots when creating and managing their public image. They had the ear of their fellow board members, so marketing/advertising were on the table as part of the central budget, not some grudge add-on as so often happens now.

On that note, if you happen to be sitting at the big table without a marketing director of your very own you might want to try a radical approach, like trusting your marketing team. More importantly, be willing to approve ads you don’t personally like. This is a real toughie. After all you’re probably a bright senior executive person surrounded by MBA’s and B.Comms and the like, you’re a strong business leader and your opinion is oft sought on matters of import. Which is great, but it doesn’t make you a great judge of ads or of which ads are going to work best for your company’s needs.
To trust the team who work on your image and respect the collective creative judgement of them and the agency requires both humility and self-confidence. Some would say the perfect mix in a far-sighted boss.

Let’s face it, it's hard to approve advertising you don't love.
But if you must say no at least give more of a reason than "I don't like it." That is unactionable feedback, please think through your responses with the care you expect your agency to have lavished on your Brand, and give logical reasons for hating the work.
(I’ve sat in meetings where the client has been adamant he hated pink and wouldn’t have it in his layouts, only to be gently reminded it was his key corporate colour.)

While you’re at it you might want to stop importing films made in Hispanic or Far Eastern countries where they talk ten to the dozen and expect us to lip-synch a nice South African voice onto it,…ly.
Bad synch and hairy Latino blokes flogging fizzy drinks and sundry dairy products just make clients look cheap, like they care so little about local markets they don’t think it’s worth investing in an ad of their own.
Overall the rule is simple, “Don’t buy a dog and try to bark yourself…”
Got to go, there’s a self-build wall unit in the garage with my name on it.

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