AdLand Suit is Dan Shute, a Board Account Director at Delaney Lund Knox Warren, a top ten London Advertising Agency. This is where I write about the life of a Suit - which can include pretty much anything. Delaney's didn't know I was doing this, but they do now. They still don't agree with everything I say though. They'd also probably rather I swore less.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Eleven Quick Thoughts On Clients

1. The Client is the most important person in any given process. Whether we like it or not, he or she holds the purse strings, and if they're not happy the work doesn't get made.

2. Making the Client happy absolutely does not always mean doing exactly what the Client wants.

3. Sometimes the Client knows best. The Suit (or Agency) that believes the Client is always wrong is a moron.

4. Never, ever lie to the Client. You will never get away with it, and you will look like an idiot. And if you have a relationship worth its salt, you shouldn't need to.

5. Clients are a bit like sandwiches: some will be good; some will be bad; most of them will be fine. Savour the ones that are brilliant.

6. Clients will never understand the BACC. That's one of the main things they pay us for.

7. A Client should look forward to meetings with the Agency - they're the meetings that involve the fewest spreadsheets. ("Picture Meetings", as a Client of mine describes them.) It's your job to earn that.

8. Liking your Client isn't important. Respecting him or her is.

9. With Clients, as with 'normal people', the little things matter - if a Client takes sweeteners in tea, make sure there are sweeteners in the meeting room. (I'm aware this is the most old school of points. But it matters.)

10. Sometimes, Clients will be so infuriating it will make you want to cry. The best way to reassure yourself at this point is by remembering that they are thinking exactly the same about you. Only more often.

11. And the big secret - Clients are normal people (even if they wear red socks), and they want to make great work as much as you do. (What 'great work' means is a post in and of itself.)

This is obviously not an exhaustive list. There will obviously be exceptions. And there are obviously ommissions - please add away in the comments.


Carl Martin said...

Going the extra mile with a client shouldn't wait until they are pissed off at you. Going the extra mile should be part and parcel of your offering as a suit. Besides, when things do go tits up, they will think of how hard you have worked for them and maybe be a little more 'nice' about things.

Anonymous said...

But when they say, just because they can: "which part of the sentence don't you understand?" - feel free to have a meltdown.

andrea n said...

You forgot to mention that well-educated clients want to make great work. The others want some happiness in their purses.

grahamcreative said...

Whilst obvious, it's worrying how often agencies forget this stuff.

Can I add:

12. The same way you want to chat to the mechanic about your car problems – not the pretty chic on reception – clients value a relationship with the lead creative also. Them, and the suit, should be capable of making a client feel loved.

Copybot said...

I'd be really interested to read a post about the agency's concept of great work vs. the client's, in your opinion. It'd be good to know what they're looking for, and whether it's the same across different types of clients.

James said...

12. A client (like you) wants an easy life. Do stuff that makes their job easier and they'll love you forever (sort of)

snoxishere said...

It also depends on how far up the food chain the particular client is.
As a basic rule of thumb, the worker bees just want the job out on time and on budget. Whilst the queens (hmmm, this analogy is fraying already)want to be famous or set up for entry into C-suite. This is why being a suit is a genuinely skilled job. (Although shorter arms work better when carrying AO portfolios).

golublog said...

it's always a strange surprise to realize clients are normal people instead of demons.

sullieseverything said...

It drives me crazy that the young guns in the business lose sight of this.

I overheard two BIG agency account kids in a VERY BIG electronic company reception slagging off their client makes you wonder how much more short-sighted they could have been.

Respect all round goes a very long way.

Paul H. Colman said...

The one thing I would add is - try and understand the language of their organizations, the things that matter to them, and how they're going to be measured.

It's the biggest mistake agencies make. They slag off the brand onion (or similar) without asking themselves why companies, or rather people, need them. And no, it's not because they're stupid.

PS. All great clients where red socks.

Paul H. Colman said...

Of course that should have been 'wear red socks'.

AdLand Suit said...

Thanks to everyone for their comments - particularly to Mr Colman who's seen the argument from both sides of the fence (not that there is a fence) and as such is particularly well placed to comment. Even if he could do with a Suit copy-checking his posts...

I won't respond to everyone individually, because everyone's point is valid - the one thing I would say is that it's very difficult to be absolute when it comes to 'Rules For Clients' (or indeed advertising in general), which is something I've tried to avoid doing here. What's great for some just doesn't work for others - a good Suit understands this, and adjusts the way he or she is working accordingly. More often than not, if a Client is happy with the process, he or she will be much more inclined to buy great work.

It's worth stressing how important Paul C's point is though - it's not enough for a Suit to know what a Client does/is (David Ogilvy's old thing about knowing more about a company than your client does), you also have to know why it is how it is. That's where the respect comes from.

And finally, to contradict everything I've just said, if a Client tells you that they 'totally agree with everything you're saying, but unfortunately it's legal feedback, and their hands are tied' then you're allowed to lose a little bit of respect for them. Suits are, after all, also only human.