Monday, May 28, 2012

Is your client your real client?

          In many advertising agencies, there's the attitude that it's the client's money we're spending, so the clients should be whom we please. That kind of thinking can lead to disaster.

           Clients are often right, but not always. If they're wrong, they should be told. Or you're wasting their money.

           As marketing and advertising people, our job is to know the customer.  We're paid to know what she desires, fears, hopes for and dreams of. We're paid to put that understanding to work in helping people choose things and ideas and services.

           What a client does or doesn't like is irrelevant. "I don't like purple" is not a valid reason for changing an ad. "Our customers don't like purple" probably is.

           One of our clients was a chain of pet supply stores. We went through months of recommending they go on the Internet. They said no, their customers don't go on the Internet. Their customers were too busy playing with their dogs and cats.

           Finally, they admitted they were wrong, and decided to go on the Web. They insisted on doing it entirely by themselves. The day they launched, they thought they would go broke. They offered $25 worth of treats to everyone who registered. By 10:30 that morning, 8,500 people had registered. By 3 o'clock, 25,000 had registered. Packing and shipping the boxes would break them.

           We suggested they email coupons, instead. Had they listened to us earlier, we could've saved them a lot of grief.

           An art director who had worked for me became creative director of Doyle Dane Bernbach in Toronto. Their policy about likes and dislikes by clients was very clear. There are only three reasons a client could reject an ad: if it was factually incorrect; if it was against company policy; if it was a legal problem.  That's it.

           I asked him what happens if a client doesn't like it. He said it was the account manager's job to sell it. He said it should stay in the trunk of the account person's car until he finds a way.

           I'm not really as tough as I may sound. If a client doesn't like purple, I'll tell him why we used it. If he still hates it, there are plenty of other colors in the world.

           But ultimately, the only client is the ultimate customer. If she isn't sold, we can argue till we're purple.


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