The CV of an ideal client: Agency wishlist revealed

Lowe's Joseph George, Taproot's Santosh Padhi, JWT's Colvyn Harris and BBDO's Josy Paul on what agencies want from their clients

e4m by Priyanka Mehra and Aditi Raval
Updated: Feb 5, 2015 9:18 AM
The CV of an ideal client: Agency wishlist revealed

What qualities constitute an ideal client? - A question that has spawned countless answers, opinions, arguments, debates and ideological differences in the advertising fraternity. In the midst of ever-growing client expectations from agencies and time and budget crunches, we ask industry leaders to define the traits and responsibilities of an ‘ideal client’.

Organised and effective process management is something that Joseph George, CEO, Lowe Lintas and Partners India considers highly essential from the client’s side. “Respect the agency structure and internal process and don’t trip it because you know how to ‘get work out’.  Only he who briefs should and can approve. Briefing is too important to delegate or use for on-the-job training and the approval process can’t be a tour of the organizational structure at the client’s end. The agency is not in the fire engine business. Please plan out timelines in advance. Honesty and guts to admit absence of a strategy (brief) or demonstrate absolute clarity and conviction on the brief. When you make the agency do 10 rounds of work, they know what is going on and it ain’t looking good,” advises George. He also quips, “Don’t drag the agency into your politics, don’t feast on agency politics either,” and further says, “Extract most for least from the agency but be fair and open to logic. Especially you, Mr. Procurement Guy.”

Colvyn Harris, Global Director, JWT echoes similar expectations. “My dream client and what he or she should deliver to an agency, first and foremost is clarity. When you have a client who is clear, what his ambition for the brand is, what he wants to do with the brand, what he wants to achieve for the brand, what his expectations with the agency are for the brand, with clarity, I think that is a client made in heaven.

Where we take the hit is when we take ideas to a clients on a brief, irrespective of who briefed us in that organization’s chain of command, and as it goes up the ladder, we get greater clarity because the brief keeps changing. The third element around clients is we create ideas around a brand and its proposition which has to be based on a core truth which that brand can deliver. If that clarity is understood, by both sides of the team, and when we come back with ideas on that central thought, that’s the time you can either break or make the morale of your agency. Agencies, traditionally, and the people in the agency are very passionate, we can go back every day and improve an idea. If I was a client I would encourage my agency and motivate them even if I don’t like an idea, to go back. Because there is no rocket scientist outside.”

Santosh Padhi, Co-Founder & CCO, Taproot India believes clients are more careful than ever, they want dual return on every penny spent. 

“Share the relative things with the creative team; those important quotes not the whole bible, as most creative guys like and believe in simplicity. So make it simple, straight and upfront. What you sow is what you get, if you feed the team right, you will have the right creative solution,” he said.  Padhi advises clients to stress on quality vs quantity in most cases as advertising is a business of ideas.

Are Clients more open to experimenting?

Ad makers unanimously agree that clients are willing to experiment in terms of employing new approaches today. Padhi elaborates, “There are all types of clients today and some do believe in experimenting (or else Taproot won't exist today) and some go as per the rule book or stick to what worked for them last. But most of the time most clients do applaud new age approaches but very rarely do those kind of approaches see the light of the day, I think five years from now things will change and more and more edgy disruptive, experimental, non-traditional approaches will be in demand, which is happening in other parts of the world.”

George also agrees, “I think clients are open to experiment, many times more than the agency!”

Josy Paul,  Chairman & Chief Creative Officer BBDO, is of the opinion that advertising is a business of relationships and ideas. “Clients buy from people they can trust. Clients often go beyond the work and look into your eyes – for belief and honesty. Conviction is not a ppt. Trust cannot be bought by wearing a crisp white shirt. Clients buy into people first and then ideas. And people they trust often earn it by going out of their way to give the best for their client. It's from these trustworthy people that most clients will buy new ideas, social innovations and other experiments with communication.”

It takes two to tango…

There seems to be an evolution of a true partnership taking place today between the creative agency and clients, in terms of time, engagement, trust and freedom given to the agency as well, agrees George. “But the impact of ‘One Quarter Stands’ cannot be discounted,” he adds.

Padhi believes clients are seeking a partnership with creative teams and increasingly want the person who takes the brief to work on the brief. “It really works well for both parties saving good amount of time and energy from both ends, and if they work long term we clearly see the positive difference on the tone of the brand.

Harris comments, “I can tell you where the dependency on marketing (and therefore advertising being its integral or critical subset) is high. If a client relies on advertising to deliver on his expectations of his own market share, brand or business, our partnerships are strongest. Where their dependence on the quality of the idea starts reducing or taken for granted or is not given importance that's where partnerships are weaker. So if the agency is commodity, vendor as against partner and business associate around a common purpose, between those two rests success and failure.”

Tips to Brand Managers
Josy Paul,
Chairman & Chief Creative Officer, BBDO

• Martin Luther King did not say "I have a brief". He said, "I have a dream". People buy dreams, not briefs. What's your dream for your brand? If you know it, feel it and can articulate it evocatively, you'll create amazing work and impact.

• Your agency is not a supplier, she is your wife. Treat her like a partner, not a servant.

• Building brands is not about just writing a powerpoint, it's about making a powerful point.

• Brands are built on the back of real conversations. Get out of the conference room, meet your agency in a coffee shop. That's a great place for real conversations.

• A week at the Cannes Lions is your best MBA. The diversity of work, people, influences and greatness will expand your mind and consciousness in ways no management courses ever can.

• You are more powerful than you think. Your brand can make a difference to the world.

Joseph George, CEO, Lowe Lintas and Partners

• Be firm and demanding but also polite and respectful.

• Agencies want to be your friends. Don’t suspect this inexplicable, primal need of theirs. If you reciprocate, they can surprise you with how joyfully they can go beyond 9 to 6.

• Agency folks are suckers for praise. When something goes well, take them out. ROI is disproportionate.

• Agency folks care about your brands. They really do. There is nothing more gutting than a communication initiative going unnoticed or ineffective. Let them know that you know that.

Colvyn Harris, Global Director, JWT

• Leave no stone unturned. Your marketplace is like a pearl necklace. Each pearl makes a necklace, so don’t leave any of those bits to its own culminations.

• Worry because in the details lies the difference between success and failure. In the inches is where you make it or you break it.

• Treat nothing lightly. Whether it’s your team, the talent, the work they bring, the email you send, it should all be treated with seriousness. You may choose to message that with some humour and gaiety and fun. The underlying core thought should be kept fully and given its value.

• Every brand manager should be asked to write down the ambition of his brand, and it cannot be a Christmas brief being written to Santa Claus. You’ve got to drill down and understand what you really want and how advertising can make that difference. Because an ad cannot address all the ills of a client and a category. If that was so simple, we would be very rich.

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