The one piece of advice all clients should know

Senior members of the advertising industry share brutally honest advice on why clients should be better collaborators, more honest and give their advice how clients should to pick the right agency.

Client and agency relationships are imperative to achieving formidable creative and business results. So what do agencies want their clients to know?

Whether it’s learning to be better collaborators, being more honest or forgetting the ‘tah-dah’ moment, clients should be working closer with their agencies to benefit from available data and gain a deeper understanding of their audiences.

So, what is the one piece of advice creatives and strategists would give to clients?

Ryan Stubna, executive creative director and associate partner at CX Lavender

Stubna says: ‘Agencies aren’t magicians’

“Agencies aren’t magicians about to reveal an amazing trick in return for some ego stroking. Effective work is now about true collaboration with clients to maximise use of data, product, landscape and audience knowledge to deliver effective creative work.

“There’s a giant rubbish bin in the sky where so much agency sweat and tears has been thrown over the years, just because our clients have been isolated from our creative process, and we’ve been making things that aren’t quite what they need. Come in! We want to work… Closer.”

Leo Burnett’s senior strategist, Bryan Wilmot

Wilmot says: ‘Inter-agency conflict can create barriers’

“Inter-agency conflict can create barriers to the best possible work and fostering environments for it to flourish requires more than asking for it to happen. Instead, it needs remuneration structures and ways of working designed where all agencies a geared for growth through stronger client-business performance unlocked through better collaboration.”

Jim Ingram, founder and creative director at Thinkerbell

Ingram says: ‘Give us a problem’

“Agency folk are great problem solvers – this is what we do best. Give us a problem, and we’ll throw all the smarts and creativity we can muster to solve it. But the days of receiving a brief and disappearing for a few weeks to crack it are long gone.

“The real problems are often solved with enough time together. So allowing your agency in nice and early on your problems, will often help solve them in a much more useful way.”

Head of social strategy at Digitas Sydney, Sarah Bell

Bell says: ‘Honest really is the best policy’

“My insider piece of advice is to remember that honesty really is the best policy. I’ve seen some of the best work being developed when a client opens the door fully to an agency. Whilst you may need to convince your internal teams that you have all the answers, you can be honest with us.

“View us as your partner and share with us your problems. You’ve asked for our help for a reason. You just need to be clear on your objectives, what success looks like for your business, and be willing for an open and honest dialogue from the start to the finish line.”

Taylor Thornton, associate creative director at MediaCom

Thornton says: ‘Wide open briefs show indecision’

“Be strict in what you want and the resources you have at your disposal. We hear this all the time, ‘show us your blue-sky thinking’ and ‘if the idea has legs we’ll find the money’.

“It’s far easier to be creative when you have constraints. Everyone’s time would be better spent invested in solving problems within the boundaries. Wide open briefs show indecision, lack of commitment and direction.

“They can make it difficult for teams to pour themselves fully into the work. I once heard ‘the enemy of art/creativity is the absence of limitation’.”

Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney’s deputy executive creative director, Rebecca Carrasco

Carrasco says: ‘Create a sense of partnership’

“Choose your agency well, then trust them. At the end of the day, you’re paying the bills, so you’ll get what you want.

“If you want the agency to do as its told, you’ll get the best work you can do. If you want the agency to do the best work it can do on your behalf, then you’ll need to create a sense of partnership.

“A great creative idea is – by necessity – unfamiliar and untested, and that’s what any good agency will try to arm you with. (Yes, you may be able to concept test, but you can’t really test a concept until you put it out in the real world where it has to compete to even get noticed. Because before you can sell someone a product, you have to sell them the ad, and only life can really test that.) So, although it can feel uncomfortable to trust a truly new idea when tasked with the responsible management of growth (and risk), you should trust a well-chosen agency.”

Executive creative director at 303 MullenLowe Perth, Richard Berney

Berney says: ‘Pull them out of their cool cat studio spaces’

“If you want to get your money’s worth from an ad agency, start with ‘the factory tour’. Forget emailing briefs. Show them what matters.

“Help them to understand your mission, pull them out of their cool cat studio spaces, and into YOUR WORLD. Do that, and you’ll get work that works. Oh, and don’t settle for the suit – make sure your whole team knows what your life feels like.”

Jen Speirs, deputy ECD at BMF

Speirs says: ‘When you buy an idea, sign on as a protector of that idea’

“Partner with the agency you trust the most, then remember that you trust them.

“You trust that they’ll do great work for your business. That you’re in this together.

“When you buy an idea, sign on as a protector of that idea. Along the way every idea will get shaped, buffed, polished – and will sometimes completely morph into something totally different. That happens to make the idea better – your idea.

“Always challenge, question, push. And let the agency do the same. You can do that when you’re in a healthy relationship. When you’ve chosen a partner.

“In my experience, when you trust your agency – they’ll do whatever it takes to get the ideas that you love, into the hands of the people who are going to love you for it.”

Chad Mackenzie, WhiteGrey’s national executive creative director

Mackenzie says: ‘Agencies are not always right’

“Be open to discuss ideas. Agencies are not always right, but initiatives that can seem a little left of centre might just offer up a new and interesting way to solve a business problem.”


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