Tales from either side of the great divide
Having trained and worked client side for the first part of my working life with the likes of Nestle UK and Scottish & Newcastle, and more recently making the most epic of leaps into agency life, I have a privileged view of the mythical client/ agency divide.
Like most senseless conflicts in life, the divide is entirely man-made and, what started as a desire for specialism, ended up being a ‘them and us’ scenario. Of course, we all happily rally together when politicians make ludicrous threats about building walls and hard borders, but few of us are entirely innocent when it comes to the creation of work-related barriers.
I have experienced first-hand the power and creativity which results when clients and agencies have a truly symbiotic relationship. All parties are equal; a well-oiled machine, with each bringing their own area of expertise for the greater good of the brand. You can feel the energy. It’s far greater than the sum of the parts, as each creative challenge becomes a joyous task to be collectively conquered; the brand ownership extending well beyond the brand team, as everyone nurtures ‘their brand’ to greatness.
I’ve also witnessed the less productive side, and I know which has better results – not just for the individuals, but also for the bottom line of the brand. When both agency and client respect the qualities of the other, there is a great and productive meeting of minds and talents, leaving a glorious sweet spot rather than an uncomfortable craggy abyss.
But the key question is how to make this magic happen. At Guy & Co one of our core values is to ‘think like a client’. We strive to really understand the short and long-term commercial realities facing our clients. When a market is in turmoil, a product has been recalled or the major mults are just getting too greedy, it doesn’t matter how great the creative is – it’s not going to be on the agenda at the board meeting. As an agency partner, we can support the brand and the client, not by striving for award winning creative, but by really understanding how the consumer/ communications challenge helps achieve the key commercial goals.
But this commercial focus is not just for the planning team. We run internal strategy workshops and have spent a lot of time optimising our creative briefing process, making the commercial goals real and tangible for everyone, from planning through to client services and creative teams. It’s often as simple as explaining that we need to make consumers think X so that they do Y, but when the entire agency joins these dots, from communication strategies to commercial objectives, the work reaps serious commercial rewards for our clients.
And from a client side, I know that the best work I ever received from agencies was when I let them in; not keeping them at arm’s length or, even worse, in individual silos away from the other partner agencies. When we truly trust and involve our agencies, they will also dig deeper, take the brand to their hearts, and develop creative work with true commercial impact.
After all, we must remember that consumers only see one brand and hear one brand voice. A collaborative approach between clients and agencies allows them to see the magic, not the blood, sweat and tears that has gone into its making.