Are Your Clients Getting the Work They Deserve?

Don't Be an Enabler; Sometimes Tough Love Is the Only Cure

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Bart Cleveland
Bart Cleveland
Clients get the advertising they deserve. That's an adage most in our industry agree with because it's an easy explanation of why so much advertising is bad: It's the client's fault.

Is this true or is it an excuse? Do clients really get the advertising they deserve or do they get substandard work from an agency they don't deserve? I tend to think it's the latter. You may disagree, but I don't think a client must be worthy of great work to deserve it. My clients deserve our best because they pay for it. They pay for our expertise, our talent and our experience. I realize that clients at times do not use what they are paying for, but that is no excuse for my agency to become jaded into not offering it.

During my last physical, my doctor told me to get my good cholesterol where it should be. He said the same thing at my previous physical and, unless I do the right things, he'll be saying it at my next physical. He knows I may not exercise often enough or eat right, but he's not going to pretend it's okay. High cholesterol will eventually kill me and he will have helped because he didn't do what he was paid to do. Namely: Warn me to stop killing myself through bad behavior.

We all know that marketing successfully is difficult enough without doing what kills an advertiser. Yet, many times, we don't act like the doctors we are. We act like enablers. We go along. We even slap some backs and tell them how good the work they're dictating is. We give the client what they ask for, not what they need, though we know what they ask for is wrong. No matter that they have the wrong perspective or the wrong bias -- we act as if they're as smart at doing advertising as we are. When we do so, we are taking money for nothing.

In moments of despair, I have jokingly said that clients hire us to help them and then do everything in their power to stop us. However, that joke should never be an indication of acceptance to misguided efforts. Clients pay for our highly skilled and dedicated effort. They deserve to be challenged. They deserve to be told they are harming their marketing goals. They deserve to fire us for standing up for what we know is right, versus firing us for doing whatever they say for a few years and not getting the results they need.

If you're a client, when was the last time your agency told you, "no"? If they've never said no to you, I promise they are not the agency you deserve and they are certainly not giving you the work you deserve. I'm not saying that your agency should always say no. In fact, most of the time they will probably say yes to a helpful request from you. But occasionally, you are wrong to your own detriment and the people you are paying to save you from yourself better remember their job, rather than filling your order as if you're picking up something at a drive-thru.

Agencies: I don't know about you, but as I look over the latest work my agency has produced for our clients, I plan on asking myself if they got the work they deserved. If it's not our best, it's not what they deserve.

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