Thursday, November 3, 2011

The difference between lip service and leadership

As always, the Bedford Group Consulting has some interesting views on the Agency/Client relationship subject, in an article I've just read, called "What Clients are saying".

This article echoes what I've been banging on about in my Strategic Account Management and Strategic Creative Leadership workshops.

From the article, in the context of increasing pressure on top management, Jane Bedford writes:
A downsized corporate America is looking for agencies whose informed objectivity can provide support and directional input in making decisions which affect the corporation’s very survival. These clients want an agency whose principals genuinely know the difference between lip service and leadership in the communications business.
And this raises an interesting point. How many ad agency principals remain active in their Client's businesses? I know that I found it difficult - the challenges of running an ad agency suck you further away from the very rockface you need to be climbing.

Jane goes on to another of my favourite subjects: how often are agencies simply executing what they've been briefed rather than actively looking for ways to grow their Clients' business? Through clever product innovation, or through deep consumer insight work to uncover amazing new territories for the Client to play in, functionally or emotionally?

And she makes the point that should be nailed to the front door of all agencies busy pitching their socks off: it's so much easier to build your business through building your clients' businesses than jumping through the pitch hoop, depleting your resources and under-delivering to your existing clients.

Bottom line? It's all about delivering business building value, by being experts in communication. But being (and staying) an expert takes time. I'm always amazed at how few people in the ad industry have ever even read the ASA Advertising Code, the basic Rules of the Game.

So there are a couple of challenges, tweaks needed to the current agency working model. But the best thing about all of this, is this:

What clients are wanting from agencies is theoretically what agencies love doing and, given the chance, can be immensely good at. Agencies always bemoan the fact that they have been pushed so far down the totem pole, and are superficially invoved in the business compared to the golden days, when the CEO sat across the table.

According to this article, Clients seem to be asking Agencies for more involvement in their business challenges. It's a great invitation!

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