Regular readers of this blog will note that it’s not often that I get up on my soapbox, but Marc Brownstein’s article in the May 30th edition of AdvertisingAge has me ready to spit. In his article, “Beware the Two-Headed Clients,” he states, “I’m discovering a new trend among clients. Some are hiring agencies for strategic insights and creative horsepower. But before the branding process begins, they need immediate deliverables (in) the first 90 days.”
Now, correct me if I’m wrong here but – the operative word is “client” – as in, “the client needs …” – how arrogant can you possibly be to state that as an agency (hired to meet the needs of the CLIENT), it’s something to beware of when the CLIENT has immediate needs? And how slow must you be as an agency to think that “immediate” and “within 90 days” would be considered the same thing?
Obviously, Marc has not spent any time on the client side of the business – where the demands of the business usually require an agency to respond in something shorter than 3 MONTHS! Do you think this sort of thinking might contribute to the animosity usually felt between the CLIENT and the agency? In my experience on the client side of the business, we usually needed something within the first 3 DAYS – forget about months!
Marc goes on to state, “As an agency, all we want to focus on is what’s 90 days away — doing the right research; following a process (one led by an account planner); getting involved early in strategy sessions with the account management and creative teams.” Ack!
Of course, strategic, long-range planning is important – without a plan you are doomed to fail. I’m not suggesting that we do away with planning – but the attitude that as an agency we should focus exclusively on long-range planning and forget about the business needs of our CLIENT is foolhardy and stupid. With markets moving as quickly as they do, and our CLIENTS needs to be responsive to competitive pressure at every turn, it’s our duty to be able to respond to both the immediate and long-range needs of our CLIENT – not to “beware of” those needs.
We should advocate planning – and in most cases when working with small business owners we are often the lone voice in the wilderness, guiding the business toward strategic thinking. But telling a new CLIENT with an immediate marketing need that we want to focus 90 days out is a bit like the surgeon standing over the man clutching his chest in heart-attack-induced pain saying, “you know, you really should eat more fruits and vegetables.”
This sort of thinking is all too prevalent within the halls of “traditional agencies” everywhere – and it’s EXACTLY why small to medium sized business owners should RUN – not walk – away from most of them. If an agency can’t meet your immediate needs and focuses exclusively on long-range planning – it’s time to find a new agency – one that doesn’t post “Beware the Client” signs on their front door.