We tell our clients to remember that it doesn't matter what we think or they think, but only what their customer thinks. In scientific terms that is true, but in emotional terms it many times becomes irrelevant. A case in point could be the advertising for Wendy's. Have you seen the the fast-food restaurant's current campaign? Wendy's swept away the "pigtailed men" campaign and those who created it. Wendy's new campaign could not be more dull. A talking logo? Who could love that? I believe the answer is the internal audience.
The previous campaign shows that if you don't develop work that the client embraces, you're in for a short run. Effective creative that engages both external and internal audiences is not only possible, it is critical for success. The new campaign for Wendy's should not have happened. If the previous campaign had served both audiences, it would not have. It is possible to do effective work that appeals to both internal and external audiences, but it isn't easy. And if you don't know your client, it's impossible.
A big reason agencies fail with the internal audience is because they don't get to know those players as well as they know their customers. They don't spend enough time getting to know what makes the client tick on a personal level. They judge from the outside (which is necessary) without considering what's going on on the inside.
In a way, the brand story an agency creates for a client is the clothing. I don't know about you, but when I was a teenager I didn't let my mom pick out my clothes. She just didn't get it. The same can be said for ad agencies that don't understand their client's personality.
I recently took a creative team to visit one of our clients for a couple of days. I hoped we would gain insight into how to better communicate the client's brand by simply getting to know them on a more personal level. We had a great visit the first day, chatting about their product and why they think their customers were so loyal, while we ate nachos and played volleyball. Our time together revealed much and it definitely made the impression on everyone, client and agency, that we were a team. The time together made a huge difference in our creative team's perspective. They were more determined than ever to do work that perfectly captured the client's personality. Our visit also was a signal to the client that we were interested in their success. It was also a great deal of fun. It left everyone recharged to do even better work than we had done previously.
I think when we consider the brands that have long-standing agency relationships, we will observe that the agency is always engaged with the client on a very personal level. Everyone wants to know that those they do business with genuinely care. From getting fast food to building a house, that doesn't change. Advertisers are no different.
The most critical reason an agency's relationship with its client must be more engaged is that the work becomes better. A brand is expressed in a more effective, meaningful way when you speak from the heart. There is no way to do so if we who create that expression don't truly believe in what we are saying.