Marketers Are Better Off When Agencies Talk Back

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

We'd like to offer a belated three cheers for Cramer-Krasselt CEO Peter Krivkovich for telling a client to stick it. And three cheers for new client Porsche for seeing the value in such an action.

While the more polite among our readers may suggest that Mr. Krivkovich's behavior is no way to do business, we believe that his one-fingered salute to former client CareerBuilder may actually bode well for agency-marketer relationships.

Sure, we supposedly live in an era when the consumer is king, but sometimes old-fashioned expertise and knowledge are needed. Sometimes someone needs to grab a client by the collar and shake vigorously. Agencies shouldn't be afraid to do it. And CareerBuilder deserved a good shaking. Cramer-Krasselt had delivered immensely popular and -- more important -- incredibly effective work for the brand. That the work and the agency should be summarily dismissed because 0.000083% of the U.S. population didn't rank a spot in a top-10 list was ridiculous.

In its defense, CareerBuilder says things were more complicated than that. Either way, with the business environment being what it is, many agencies, upon learning of the review, would have kept silent and pitched. It's the mature and financially responsible thing to do. After all, not only are they responsible for their employees, most agencies these days are responsible for contributing to a holding company's coffers.

The truth is a lot of the garbage flooding the advertising world these days is a direct result of agencies living in a state of financially induced fear. Yet, when Cramer-Krasselt took a chance and stood up for its work, the agency didn't exactly see a sudden exodus of clients upset that an agency talked back. Porsche, among others, was impressed by the move. "I had a lot of respect for them standing behind their work and conviction," said Porsche executive David Pryor.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. At a time when it seems that any monkey can make a decent 30-second spot on YouTube, marketers are looking for strategic and tactical guidance, someone who can tell them how to negotiate a sea of media and an infinite number of niches. Agencies from Leo Burnett to Crispin Porter & Bogusky have done just that, stepping in and completely shaking up a marketer's approach -- from packaging to product line. That is, after all, what agencies are paid for.
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