On a recent flight for a business trip I had five hours to take some time to think because I was unplugged, no phone calls and no emails (I have to admit it was a nice change). As I began to unwind and eat my peanuts, I started to think about the holidays approaching and the new year. In 2010, I will begin my third year on the agency side of marketing after spending fifteen years on the client side. My experience on both sides has given me a valuable perspective of how to maximize the relationship for all parties involved. Like any relationship, it will evolve over time and that evolution depends on the actions and commitments of both parties involved. To start, it depends on what lens you are looking through. But at the end of the day, no matter if you are on the client or agency side, your main priority is to do what is right for the consumer.
Throughout my client-side experience I always welcomed and treated our agencies as part of our team and a true partner. I witnessed others who would treat their agencies as more of a vendor that was brought on to do a certain task. They seemed to want to control the agency and make sure the agency knew they were the boss. That always amazes me because you never can get the best work from an agency if you don’t treat them with respect and allow them to get immersed in your brand, your culture and your business. Agencies are brought in because they have a particular expertise that provides value to the brand such as advertising, promotions, branding or direct marketing. Like strong leaders, successful clients recognize where they need help and delegate responsibilities to the right agency.
My first two years on the agency side (a.k.a. “The Dark Side”) have opened my eyes to a whole new world, one which requires patience, persistence and a jovial personality. As the marketing world continues to evolve, agencies try to stay ahead of the curve to help inform their clients of the next best thing since sliced bread. Our updated perspective comes from how and where we apply those fundamentals to this new media environment and consumer-centric culture. From the agency side, I think we can all get better at providing more value to our clients than just delivering on what is asked of us. We need to keep up to date not only on our clients but their competitors and their industry at large. We owe it to our clients to manage their expectations appropriately and push back when necessary.
Now let’s talk about what really matters for this relationship between a client and agency to be successful. At the end of the day it’s all about doing what’s right for the consumer. Sometimes clients talk too much about “our brand,” while agencies focus on “our experience.” Both clients and agencies need to take a step back and realize that they are both working for the consumer. As a parent with two girls in grammar school, I like using the analogy of the relationship between me, the teacher and my daughter (the student). At the end of the day, both the teacher and I need to partner to help my daughter (the student) succeed. This is the same type of partnership clients and agencies must have to do what’s right for their consumer. So the best vision of the consumer comes from the depth perception achieved by looking at them through the brand’s eye and the agency’s eye together.
And remember; let’s keep our work all in perspective as there are more pressing issues in our lives and our world today. As we are in the midst of the baseball playoffs, I thought this quote from the great Brooklyn Dodger, Jackie Robinson, was appropriate:
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”