- Individuals (client contacts) you’ve been accustomed to doing business with for years now behave in erratic ways, making unusual demands of your agency.
- Sometimes a client is pushing your agency so low on fees that making a profit is out of the question; just keeping the client becomes the rationale.
- Asking the agency to make unethical decisions.
- Not paying invoices until your accounting department escalates the situation, and then challenging the invoices.
- Demanding that you negotiate unreasonably low prices from your vendors — or else the client will seek its own vendors and get it done directly, even if the quality of execution is at stake.
- A daily flow of tersely worded emails that convey impatience and disrespect.
- The CEO overriding the marketing director on creative execution, giving the agency a case of revision whiplash.
- Taking the agency’s advice on strategy and creative, then abruptly doing an about-face and dictating both. Or else.
- Demanding greater transparency on timesheets, all estimates and invoices.
- Ignoring standard agency timelines and demanding turnaround at a breathless pace, which often leads to mistakes.
The recession is doing a lot of things to clients and marketers in every industry. But I don’t think it’s creating demons from perfectly nice people. It’s just makes them more of what they are.
Clients who are demanding in good times are nearly impossible in bad times. I say “nearly” because in a recession it’s hard for agencies to admit their clients are awful. If they admit it, then it reflects on them, because good agencies are an extension of their clients. So if they’re clients are x, y, and z, it reflects back on them. You know, like in a relationship: You can get out of a relationship and tell all your friends and strangers what a jerk your ex is, but you were the one who chose him/her, so what does that say about you? You know?
This article really bothered me. Here’s why: of course these companies are stressing. Recessions are stressful. Money is tight, sales are down and they’ve got to maximize dollars like crazy. So they’re going to ride us hard. But instead of sitting around whining about it, why aren’t we 1) delivering results 2) putting our foot down about the behavior we won’t tolerate? and 3) working with our clients on establishing a relationship of mutual respect instead of slave and master?
Advertisers need to stop acting like auxiliary partners. Like we’re expendable. Like we’re a budget that they could and should cut. Like clients would be anything without us. Marketing and advertising is directly linked to success. But in a recession? Marketing and advertising is vital in a recession. So why do agencies and marketers tip toe around like they could be cut at any time? Because they could be! But who’s fault is that? Clearly we’re not expressing our value enough. We’re letting the CEO’s and Presidents believe that the great branding ideas we’re doing for them are their idea. And that’s part of managing an account. Decision makers don’t want to hear what you say, they’re egos want you to confirm what they’re saying. But there has got to be a balance because the more clients think we’re dispensable, the more they’re going to suffer and get screwed in this recession. But it starts with us. Agencies and marketing consultants need to start walking around with a swagger again.