BUZZ WORDS TO WATCH OUT FOR WHEN HEARING AN AGENCY PITCH

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As a public service, I want to devote my space this week to help you resist the blandishments of your ad agency.

Some agencies are very adept at convincing clients to run ads that the client doesn't totally understand but is afraid not to approve because the said client doesn't want to appear out of touch with today's consumer.

As one of our readers wrote us last week, "Today's clients are too easily led down the `creative' path, don't have a sense of what's good or bad, or are intimidated when they meet with, say, the `big-time' producer or creative director."

The ad agencies are visualizing a way to use the account as a springboard for award-winning stuff without any serious concern about whether the ads will move the clients' merchandise. And for some reason, clients are often anxious to "play in the same creative sandbox," as Norwegian Cruise Line VP-Marketing Nina Cohen told me.

Maybe it's because the marketing guy or ad director can't always take credit for a company's advertising results-too many other factors such as price cuts, lousy product, etc., muddy the waters. But the exec, along with his ad agency, can revel in the stature of producing "award-winning" advertising, even if the ads don't move the sales needle. And such a designation looks good on his resume, too.

But if you're a client who is not in cahoots with your agency to "play in the same creative sandbox," here are some ways to spot whether you're being led down the primrose path. Be wary if your agency begins its presentation along these lines:

"We weren't going to show you this next campaign, because it would take a very bold, self-assured client to understand the powerful impact these ads will have on your target market."

Or hold onto your wallet when the agency says: "We wouldn't dare take this approach with most of our clients, but you are one of the few who understand how important it is to communicate with today's unwilling and elusive consumer in non-traditional, non-linear ways. Most clients aren't hip enough to get it, but we know that because you have an innate understanding of the new sensibilities of consumers who are the biggest purchasers of your product, you'll immediately appreciate what a breakthrough we've achieved here."

What client wants to admit he or she doesn't, after all, have the "innate understanding" to appreciate the non-linear message that the agency has so painstakingly crafted? That he or she doesn't share the very special insight the agency has bestowed upon itself?

Who among us is vulgar enough to reduce the hallowed client-agency relationship to mundane conversation about trying blatantly to sell the consumer something? Who would dare offend the sensibilities of both the creative team and consumers themselves by bringing up, and insisting upon, advertising that actually, defiantly, unmistakably proclaims that the client's product or service is for sale and can be purchased for a reasonable price?

Not many, I'm ashamed to report, and that's why so much of today's advertising is so bad.

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