Working with your agency or client


I refer to Ben Skelsey’s article at The Wall regarding his entry of “Clients are our friends, and friends deserve better”. In this article, he talks about how creative agencies should properly treat their clients and eventually work as partners and gain the most out of this mutual working relationship. In his opinion, he believes that agencies must ‘wake up’ and stop behaving like the zenith of the creative world. By now, most agencies have already evolved and has developed stronger ties and working relationship with clients. I personally find his article being rather obsolete and does not reflect much truth in creative agencies these days. On the other hand, I always find this an amusing example to talk about – “If you were to visit a doctor, would you negotiate or second his medical opinion just like how you would question your creative agency’s expertise?” Think again.

After reading through his article, I have to say Ben really need to deserve better. Agencies hires the right people for the right job and of course people who would value add even more. Some of the important factors to build a great relationship between agency and clients requires respect, understanding and trust. Here are some of the points to note:

1. Respect
Clients sometimes tend to believe that the agency basically skives off work on booze (MAD man and his early morning Scotch) and awesome evening parties. So they never take the agency seriously. Clients also pretty much have the belief that agency starts rather late and off work rather early. Of course, this mentality can’t be helped if calls were often not picked up or emails not replied to. But you really must know, agencies actually start really early and work normally ends very late. The amount of 8.30am meetings can be quite packed on the schedules and starting work only at 4.30pm in the afternoon is not abnormal. Agencies worked hard to strive for the best results for clients and so does the clients. As agencies respect clients for their knowledge and authority in their own products and services, they expect the same amount of professionalism being given back to them.


2. Understanding
I guess it is about time that creatives learn to understand the fundamental part of the business – We are a service oriented business. We provide a service and it wouldn’t be nice to treat your clients rudely or provide them with a lousy service. I have seen creatives debating with the clients during filming on set as well as during meetings and presentations. My principle is not to win every single debate and lose the entire project. Look at the big picture and understand that you want to get your big idea out there to the world. Changing some words in the copy or the colors on the type would not affect the world. People most likely won’t remember those minute details but would definitely kept that idea of yours vividly in their minds. And that is really good enough. Take a step back and go to a meeting with the mentality that you just ‘might be wrong’. Take down what the client said and go through those points in your head. It might just place an underpinning evidence that would help you in your argument later.

Agency must learn to maintain a professional attitude regardless if they have invested lots of time for the pitch and end up not winning it. Learn from the mistakes and gain the experience from it. The most important thing is not to be sore and understand the situation. Therefore, I must emphasize again, being understanding is the first and foremost step to establish great chemistry with clients.


3. Trust
How many times have you heard clients saying “I trust that you will do a good job and we will give you exactly the advertising dollars you need.” Well, at least for me, I haven’t heard much if not none at all! It is highly impossible that your client would place this high amount of trust in you unless of course, agencies has proved their working capability through the great amounts of quality work. The kind of work that comes out from the agency determines their reputation and more often or not, creatives stood by their work with extreme pride, ensuring only good creative work gets out. Clients must learn to trust that no one wants to be recognize for doing crap work. If clients think that the work done hasn’t really much justifies the brief, then I would say always question the outcome of the work before jumping into the conclusion that the agency has once again fail your expectations. Sometimes, all we need is clarification and a little bit of patience to nail the brief. We are humans after all, and it always takes time and practice to be perfect. I understand that time is of essence especially when it comes to tight deadlines, but good quality work is timeless. Hence, good working relationships and quality work boils down to the mutual trust in one another to believe that we are good enough for our jobs.


What I have said is just some brief notes about working together effectively between clients and agencies. There is a lot more to be said and could have been done. The world is changing everyday and the challenges that we have to tackle is constant. As relationships gets tighter, challenges gets easier. In a nutshell, great relationships brings about good work. So learn to establish trust, respect and understanding with your client or agency.

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