Mr. Harrobin instituted the new rules after Verizon hired as a
consultant Casey Jones, best known for his former stint as the
global VP-marketing at Dell, and one of the architects of the
controversial, and now-disbanded, WPP agency Enfatico.
After departing Dell in 2008, Mr. Jones set up a marketing
consultancy called Jones & Bonevac. He later changed the name
These days he's spending a lot less time defending the notion of
an agency built to serve a single client, and instead stirring
debate over who's to blame for marketing issues -- an agency that
didn't execute within the framework provided by the client, or a
client that gave a shoddy framework. His motto is "garbage in,
garbage out," shorthand for his theory that efficiency-obsessed
companies can get what they want not by slashing an agency's fees,
but by briefing the agency better.
"If you rated the industry on a scale from one to 10, with one
being a horrifying piece of direction and 10 being optimal, I would
say that companies are currently somewhere between a two or three,"
Mr. Jones said. "The norm is partial, incomplete and sometimes no
brief at all. A phone call or a text message comes across to the
agency, and the agency is trying to read the client's mind and they
go off and start executing," he said. "Agencies go off and do stuff
and then the marketer comes back and says 'That's not what I
One of the men credited with arguably the most legendary ad in
history, Apple's "1984" spot that launched the Mac computer,
agrees. "I just can't tell you how many days and weeks we've spent
trying to improve the brief," said Steve Hayden, now vice chairman
at Ogilvy. "Most of the time, clients work out the brief as they
look at the creative, iterating along the way. If we could avoid
that , we'd save a lot of time."
"The amount of revenue dependent on the quality of these
documents is in the billions of dollars," said Mr. Jones. "It
sounds hyperbolic -- until you've seen the quality of the briefs
and realize that the work can't possibly drive ROI."
Some will likely say he isn't the most reliable authority on
successful client-agency relationships, given his tumultuous tenure
at Dell. But in addition to Verizon, top marketers such as
Whirlpool, are taking his advice seriously. The Association of
National Advertisers' School of Marketing even invited him to give
presentations about the importance of quality documents.
"The largest pool of resources we can find to face these
extraordinary economic times is not to be found in continuing to
pressure our agency partners as though their output was a casual
commodity," said Bruno Gralpois, former director of global agency
management at Microsoft, and author of the new book Agency Mania.
"It is to be found in more careful management of our
responsibilities as clients."