Advertising strategy can be reduced down to two categories: facts and opinions. Many agency people, particularly younger ones, like to concentrate on communicating facts to clients. They may feel this is safer ground, since they lack experience that help support opinions. They may feel it makes them look smart. And so out come the PowerPoint presentations about the social media landscape, the five-page preamble on customer relationship management, the SWOT analysis…
Communicating facts to clients is dangerous. If clients already know what they’re being told, agencies can come off as condescending (particularly when it’s a 25-year-old account exec talking to a fourty-something marketing director). Even if the client isn’t knowledgeable on the subject, do they want to be taught? I don’t think so. That’s why they’ve given the job to the agency.
Clients are looking for smart ideas that drive their business. Agencies need to use facts internally to develop that big idea. Tell the client only enough facts so that they understand the mechanics of the idea’s execution, and use senior agency staff to support the idea with their experienced opinion. Everything communicated should directly relate to the client, not wander around the wide world of marketing. Nothing makes an agency look smarter than developing an idea that works. Nothing makes an agency look more bloated, tone-deaf and expensive than 25 pages of marketing background before the big idea.
Agency people are often told that clients look to them for leadership. To me, that means having confidence, a well-communicated opinion, and a proven track record. My doctor doesn’t tell me about the origins of penicillin when I see her about a sore throat. She just solves my problem.
Clients and marketers, are my suspicions correct?