Who should drive client relationships in the agency?
by Michelle Beh (@JupiterCT) One discussion we’ve been having recently is: “Who should own the relationship with the client?” Should it be the client service director? Or should it be the creative director who’s ultimately responsible for delivering the solutions that clients are looking for?
Recently at a media conference in the US, Marc Pritchard, chief growth and brand officer for the world’s biggest advertiser, Procter & Gamble (P&G), said: “It’s time to disrupt the archaic ‘Mad Men’ model, eliminating the siloes between creatives, clients and consumers, and stripping away anything that doesn’t add to creative output.”
The advertising industry prides itself as a creative industry but Pritchard has pointed out that “creatives represent less than half of agency resources because they’re surrounded by excess management, buildings, and overheads.”
Gone are the days where creatives sit in their own rooms and brainstorm the whole day, and throw tantrums when clients change their briefs. They have to understand clients’ business and process as well because that impacts on their solutions and approach. They need to be able to help clients sell their ideas to internal stakeholders. And, if the creative director involves clients in the creative process, she’ll find that it’s easier to get to the right solutions faster and easier.
If the creative director is involved in writing and driving the brief with the client, she can’t blame someone else for a bad brief. Or for not selling hard enough. She can challenge the client directly at the briefing session. She can find creative solutions to business problems that the client hasn’t thought of briefing in.
The client should be able to pick up her phone and call the creative director directly, without having to go through a gatekeeper. Why shouldn’t the creative director be woken up at 2am when the client has had a spark of idea and wants to bounce it with her partner?
Effectiveness and efficiency
Ultimately, if creative directors are the clients’ partner, we believe that we can create better creative solutions, faster and easier. There will be:
- Less second-guessing of the brief
- More direct discussions with the clients to get to the bottom of the problem
- Less miscommunications and less waiting around for the brief
- A more-proactive, solutions-driven approach
Can this work?
Yes, but the creative director will need support to help her manage the execution and admin of the relationship so she will not be bogged down by day-to-day menial tasks and stay creative.
Should she be responsible for the profitability of the client? Totally!
Ultimately, we’re not artists but businesses driven by creative solutions. Every organisation today needs to be driven by innovation and creativity but it doesn’t mean that those businesses don’t care about their bottom-line. So why can’t a creative director be involved in driving business profitability through her thinking and relationship management skills? The same could apply to a strategist or a social media manager. The person in charge of driving solutions should have ownership of the relationship with clients, and drive ownership and accountability of the final solutions.
Turn the table
We believe that this will turn the table on the emphasis on which resources agency should have more of — producers of solutions rather than just people managing relationships.
Michelle Beh is the managing and strategy director at The Jupiter Drawing Room (Cape Town) (@JupiterCT). She has extensive experience working with global brands in developing their branding and advertising strategy for over 16 years across Asia-Pacific and South Africa on brands including include BMW, Budget Insurance, Burger King, HP, Hyundai, Mediclinic, Protea Hotels, SASKO (Pioneer Foods), Nokia, Singapore Telecommunications, Skip, Singapore Tourism Board, Unilever, Virgin Group, Windhoek Beer and Zurich Insurance.
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.
— One subscription form, three newsletters: sign up now for the MarkLives newsletter, including Ramify headlines; The Interlocker, our new monthly comms-focused mailer; and Brands & Branding, launching soon!