“Clients. They just don’ get it, do they? They really don’t understand (Insert: what good work is / social media / the Internet / whatever your new frustration is)”
How many times do we hear that?
It seems that if clients don’t embark on super innovative and mega cool new campaigns is down to the fact that they are afraid of taking risks or simply refuse to change.
We’ve all been there, presented some TV work we thought was utterly brilliant and was going to completely turn their fortunes around. Or the next social network idea / iPhone app idea that would have revolutionised the market.
But they didn’t get it. They weren’t ready for it. And turned it down. Despite being in their best interests to actually do it. Why and how can we change that?
It all came to me like a kick in the teeth, while watching an episode of Mary queen of the shops.
The woman’s a genius. She could have many a fortune in any creative career she would have chosen.
She reminded me of how obsolete is the way we try to build relationships with our clients and sell them good work.
More often than not, we take a client’s brief, go away for a couple of month and go back to present our brand new shiny integrated 360 campaign. We put all our eggs into one presentation. All our efforts, all our energy, all our creativity, into trying to pack the most insightful, brilliant… PowerPoint presentation. It’s such a massive risk and makes it so hard for client to buy a brave solution when they haven’t even grasped the basics of the new techno-friendly communication landscape.
Now you hear a lot of people saying they try to take the client on a journey with them, etc. But really, who does it and what does they do about it apart from organizing a brainstorming session with the client or a throwing an odd workshop every now and then?
But back to Mary. In every episode, she tries to help a local retailer who’s struggling to keep its business afloat. She has only four weeks to do it. What’s important is that they have signed up to the BBC website to get her help. They know she is retail guru. They need her help or otherwise they will go bankrupt. You’d think it’d be dead easy: here’s your new concept BAM, thank you very much. Yet, they all turn to be nightmarish clients, difficult and scared to death to change. And let me tell you, they are a lot more difficult to deal with than the clients we have.
Here’s a little exert:
I mean how do you fancy working with him, owner of a DIY shop?
Yet, (almost always) she manages to delivers a master class in selling work to the most difficult clients possible.
And beyond her fantastic personality and charisma, there is a very creative method in her flamboyant style. One that can and should be applied to one of our biggest problems; selling better work to clients.
She spends most of her 4 weeks, trying to get to know the business, trying to understand them, inspiring them, challenging them, getting their confidence, getting them involved, motivating them, and only when they are ready for it, will she introduce the new concept. She knows what she wants to do with the shop the moment she steps in it, but she makes a point of getting her clients there with her every step of the way.
An advertising agency would have taken the brief, gone away, come back two weeks later with a 70 slides presentation, some concepts and would have spent the remaining 2 weeks arguing the hell about it, demonstrating with research how right they are, pestering against the client’s lacks of vision.
Mary is often faced with shop owners who have been used to doing things the way they wanted all their lives. Who have put their personality and all they had in these shops. She has to confront them with the truth (sometimes brutally). These furniture sellers have NO taste, no idea what’s modern or what people want. When they are confronted by Mary on that fact, they all vigorously refute the fact. It’s a gigantic blow to their personal pride.
Indeed, they are out of touch with their own business. Out of touch with their consumers. They’ve ben kept in their protective bubble for the last decades and have known nothing else than what’s got them there. (rings a bell?). Mary just knows that there is a huge amount of work to before showing them anything new.
How many times does it happen? Clients business not doing too well, seeks a cool agency, yet don’t listen to their advice?
Yet she manages to do in 4 weeks what a lot of us fail to do in a year. So here’s a list of 10 things you could start doing right now to make sure you start getting the work you want out of your clients to get us started:
1/ Redefine what an account team stands for
The responsibility of selling the work should not belong only to the account team anymore.
Get an inspiring client-facing person in your account team. Who sees your clients the most? Who’s building your client relationship? Your account team. Who are the most inspiring people in your agency? Everyone else. (sorry, overgeneralising for the purpose of the exercise). Yet they barely get any client time, do they? Might want to start changing that. CDs at Wieden are client facing, and not just for the big presentation, they are present all the way from the original client briefing. They inspire clients all the way. They don’t just show up to present their work at the end of the process and act like divas if its turned down.
Apart from rare occasion, account management does not know much of what is going on in terms of new campaigns, technology, etc. They need to be fed constantly with new stimulus and it should be their responsibility to make sure the clients are kept up-to-date with the latest ideas and technology.
Creative, producers, planners, innovation people, social media people, etc. should all be part of a core team who’s job it is to keep inspiring their client.
2/ Reintegrate the Innovation lab or innovation director into the day to day client servicing
Having a separate innovation departments and officers made sense a couple of years ago, as a PR exercice. Now pretty much every agency has one, it does not make sense any more to have them as stand alone department, disconnected from the hard realities of running an account. Their responsibility lies in making the input of the agency better and more integrated, every day, and helping clients buy that work. Looking cool to the outside world, should be a bonus of doing awesome work, not an end in itself. Flip that focus & energy from trying to impress your peers back to serving the machine internally. The whole innovation business thing is becoming a bit of a joke, mutual ego stroking and intellectualising theories that are completely unrealistic for most clients and situation.
Look no further than BBH Labs working on Google for a successful example of how to do it.
3/ Be creative about getting more client time
Probably the most difficult challenge. Clients are busy bees. They don’t normally tend to make time for inspiration sessions. Why? Because they sound dull and although they know their knowledge is limited, they don’t feel like being bombarded by lots of ‘cool’ shit that makes no sense to them.
BBH used to organise a marketing dinner for their big cheese client to meet and chat about each other perspectives, which proved a great success. (and a pain to organise).
Organise events with artists, reorganise your reception into the inspiration room, take your clients to exhbitions and talks, get them to meet their own consumers, etc. Be innovative and stimulating, and your clients will find the time for you.
4/ Maximise every client touch point
- How many times clients come to your agency? Quite a few times don’t they? Do they ever get any stimulation while waiting in the reception? Are they exposed to new stuff each time? Nope. What a missed opportunity. I have seen a lot of advertising agencies reception. All imposing. None inspiring. What does it say about us as a business? (and having an artist exhibiting in the reception lobby doesn’t count as stimulation)
- What about emails? Good old newsletter, etc.
- A dedicated tumblr blog for each of your client? Responsibility of the innovation lab mentioned above?
5/ Have an inspiration strategy
Let’s reiterate one human truth: NO ONE LIKES TO BE SOLD TO. You don’t like when research agencies, production agencies, designers, try to sell you stuff. Same feeling for your clients towards you pushing them to do an Iphone app. They don’t believe you because they doubt you have their best interest at heart. But what we do like, is the feeling of discovering something by ourselves. When are clients most likely to get to grasp a new the importance of a new technology? When they see their children / wife using it. Sad but true.
We need to have strategies to get clients to realise by themselves the importance of digital, of the participartory culture, new opportunities offered by this new generation of smart-phone. And showing them slides is probably the least efficient way to do so.
Selling doesn’t start when you start presenting your strategy & concept. By that time, the selling should almost be over, just needing a last push. As you embark on a new project, you should make sure you have an ‘inspiration’ strategy that will start taking your client up there with you, so there’s little room for incomprehension when you present.
This should be a long term and continuous inspiration plan. Yes, not a 2 hours workshop every 6 months, or a quick email every now and then. That should be as important as working on the strategy and creative itself.
6/ Take clients out of their comfort zone
An important point: One of the best way Mary has to convince clients that they didn’t understand what was going on in the real world anymore was to a/ get consumers in their shop and tell what they really think of it (it was painful truth to hear from the owners).
She then takes them to the extreme top-end of their range. Furniture owner meet top interior designer Abigail Ahern (http://www.skonahem.com/_internal/cimg!0/cdf9vkk1n0ip34hm9btqoyfuylzhb6w/Abigail%20i%20underlandet)
We don’t all know Paul Smith as a friend, but there are ways to get your clients to get out of their comfort zone and stuck in the real world without spending money and having fun in the process:
“Mary drives her Audi A3 up to picturesque Corfe Castle in Dorset, where owners Chris and Juliet are running village store Clealls into the ground. Mary spots that the relocated Cockney couple haven’t bonded with the locals, so takes them out on a pheasant shoot”
“Portas organises a saucy promotional photoshoot for the Fosters sisters, neglecting to tell them they’ll be wearing nothing but fruit and veg. Jen cries because she thinks she looks fat. Debbie says, “My husband will be moritified. I can see myself in the divorce courts over this.” Portas talks them round, they look fabulous and hang the framed portraits behind the counter.”
Source: The Telegraph
The staff of a DIY shop won’t wear the uniform. Bang, organise a photoshoot.
7/ Hire the right kind of people: empathy for people, passion for great work, energy and style
One of the reasons Mary has been so successful is partly due to the fact that she genuinely loves people. She wants to help them. She has an empathy you can’t fake. When I work on a client’s business, I take it to heart to serve them to the best of my abilities and to do what’s right for them, not what’s right for my boss or my creative (it got me in troubles, but it always works out when you have the backing of your client).
She also has a passion for great design and retail. It’s in her DNA. And something you can’t teach. If your people don’t love advertising, have a passion for it, it’s not going to work in the long term. Give them a gentle nudge to look for work somewhere else less demanding.
When your account team sees spending time with your clients as a punishment, you are in trouble…
Energy is an important factor as well. Energy is contagious and so is the lack of it. Make sure you have a lot of high energy people on your team.
And finally style. Mary Portas look the part. It’s a subject Scamp had discussed before but look and appearance always play a part in your reputation and presence. Look at John Hegarty.
He’s fashioned an image and style that says who he is without having to shout about it. Whatever you do, build an image consequently. Clients don’t look for replicates of themselves, but business partners that will provide them with a creative output they can’t reproduce.
8/ Use the right tools for the right job
Mary uses focus group to highlight the problems, not to find the solution. She is the expert, she knows what people will want, they don’t. She doesn’t have to research her concept to prove its good, but uses feedback and research to show where the opportunities are.
Dealing with change can be a painful experience. When Mary sees one of her client is feeling left out, she takes her out for a coffee and ask her what is going and tries to get her back on tracks. When’s the last time you had a one-to-one coffee with your main client? A heart to heart, genuine, conversation, out of the office?
Go and get the right experts, who are credible in your clients’ eyes.
If you can’t get your clients out of their comfort zone, create videos to show them what they should be doing.
For example this 3 minutes video is a lot more powerful than the most amazing presentation
9/ Pull your finger out & never give up
Gets your hands dirty, it’s not going to happen by sitting in front of your laptop. Delegate some parts to the good people in your team. Get started. Your clients wont change overnight so don’t lose hope, this is a big change and one for the long term. Don’t give up and you’ll harvest the results soon enough. It’s a brave new world…
10/ This is just a start, would love to hear yours.
And I will be available for a new challenge from September 2010, so if you hear of anything, send it my way!
Having been forbidden from using an Iphone during my Nokia time at WK, I’ve been busy catching-up with this little technologic jewel. I don’t think I’ve been blown away by technology since the first time I accessed the Internet, 12 years ago.
In the last couple of months, I’ve already spent hundreds of pounds trying every application that seemed vaguely interesting, and found quite a few that I think are indispensable for us advertising people. Most of them are based on the beliefs that you are someone curious who actually goes out, is interested in new things and happens to be on the go quite a lot. Otherwise, not much point I’m afraid!
Russell Davies, a few years ago, famously said he would only hire planners who have a blog. Now that pretty much everyone has one, I’d be also very interested in having a peak at their Iphone to see what they use it for. And I’d be expecting to see quite a few of the ones below.
1/ A to-do app to get organised.
I personally use Todo. Once you get in the habit of updating it with the important and unimportant things you have to do, you will suddenly feel like a weight has been taken off your shoulder. Input a time for each task, and an alert will remind you when time is due. It’s so simple and easy to use it has become a life changer app already. It synches with the web service toddledo, so you can input your data on the web with your computer and still access your data from everywhere, it’s all saved on there for you, and you can even input your tasks straight there for more convenience.
I now have separated lists of things to do for work and home, assigned by projects (i.e. clients projects, with all the subsequent tasks associated and their due dates), plus the odd things I have to remember, like book a travel ticket and assign it to a time when I know I’m likely to be able to do it.
It’s just a question of routine, once you have got in the gist of doing it, you won’t regret it.
I also recommend the book Getting things Done. Its the poniest title ever, but has been of immense help for someone not naturally organised like me.
Other ones that I haven’t tried but look pretty good: Things, Pocket informant, and Omnifocus.
2/ A capture app
Capture apps are also growing in importance in my life. They allow you to capture everything, from a picture to text, etc. and tag them. When I visited the V&A decode exhbition (highly recommended) I wanted to keep track of the installations descritions and artists names, so just snapped pictures of all of them, tagged them ‘digital art’ and decode, and they automatically were sent to my Evernote account, which meant they were ready for me to see when I arrived at work the next morning.
I also use it the other way around, as you can save entire online articles while browsing on your computer, and they are then automatically sent to your Iphone for offline reading.
I personally recommend Evernote, which I find fantastic.
The way you can browse your notes by location (as they are geo-tagged) is pretty amazing.
Love it, hate it, I actually find the app more helpful and stimulating than the actual magazine or website. For me Timeout has always suffered from an overdose of content, leaving me overwhelmed and incapable of making a decision. There is such a thing as too much information.
But not the app, which allows me to search for things that are near me, but most importantly, the ‘inspire me’ section just aggregates the best of things to do. Perfect and ultimately, quite inspiring. You have to give it to the peeps of Smirnoff as this is quite a good deal they made in the process. Hats off.
Another one you might want to consider is Spoonfed, which is not as good an app, but better for live music.
Yelp is really growing on me. Quite a recent app, it is garnering quite a peculiar following of enthusiasts that start reviewing every single bit of your neighbouroud. I actually find it fascinating and it somehow makes you feel stronger bonds with your community. It also happens to be quite helpful when in front of a restaurant you have never heard of.
The monocle section is also worth a look at, when you need inspiration on where to go for a quick bite or snack. As it shows you where everything is in an augmented reality way. This is actually useful. Although you do look like a geek in the street while using it and turning around.
Spotify! All the music in the world. For 10 euros a month. I’ve actually completely stopped downloading any music. Why download when you can stream? The best part being the playlist that you can create or share, you don’t even need to add the music, someone’s done it for you! For example, just click on the BBC 6 ‘best of 2009′ playlist on your computer, and bish bash bosh, it’s on your Iphone. And the cherry on the cake, you can actually download the whole playlist for offline listening. So when you get i nthe tube, it automatically switches on to your offline playlist.
I still find it hard to believe I can have access to pretty much any music, anywhere, at the tip of a finger.
Now Foursquare is an interesting one. It’s a recent app, that hasn’t reached mainstream yet. Essentially, it allows you to get updates every time your friends go somewhere. If I go to a Pret, I can then ‘check in’ the Pret, for which Foursquare finds the location, and it will let all my friend now that I’m there. Foursquare also give you point for being the first one to check in new locations, and you can see your own ranking. It opens interesting opportunities for local initiatives, loyalty and driving footfall (say, everytime someone check-in a McDonalds, they get a free fries, or in a bar a free drink, etc)…
The Amazon app is actually pretty neat, almost dangerously, as its so easy to buy lots of stuff without even thinking about it. But the Amazon remembers is the cool bit, which allows you to take a picture of a movie, book or cd, which will then be automatically recognised by Amazon and give you the chance to order it straight away. Although I kind of miss Borders, so I might not be using it so much as to get all the local book shops to close.
8/ The Guardian
The Guardian is the ultimate news app. Another proof that the chap at the Guardian does really get digital. The app is a model of usability. I can download the entire content on my Wifi in the morning before my commute so I can read it in the tube. You can get access to all the podcasts from it. It’s just absolutely fantastic.
9/ Kindle or Stanza
I was skpetical about reading books on such a small screen, but it’s actually working quite well and I have been enjoying being able to read my books without having to carry them around. Stanza seems to be a better app, but Kindle seems to have more books. They are both free so you can always give it a go and see what suits you.
10/ Jamie Oliver
Now whether you like the man himself or not has nothing to do with the fact that this is one of the most impressive app in the market. You can see that lots of love has gone to this app and that when done right, it can also be extremely successful (this was the number one selling app for the Itunes for quite a few weeks I beleive).
The application is superbe in every aspect. All the content has been specifically thought FOR the Iphone. From being able to put all the ingredients in a shopping list, to the tutorial videos on how to cook simple things ,to step by step recipe with hi definition pictures. It’s perfection. And it actually got me into cooking. Sad, but true.
I also like the fact that there are only 55 recipes, so I don’t have to spend hours deciding which one I want. (Epicurious does that quite well.
One should have games on an Iphone. Just to check them out. They are amazing. I would be disappointed not to at least find a couple of those in every Iphone: Real racing, Scramble, Pledge, Nova, Bejweled, Rolando, DoodleJump, Monkey Island(!), Words with friends, etc. etc. There are just too many.
(12) WordPress, Facebook and a Twitter thingy, but I’d expect everyone to have them of course.
Hope this was helpful and please share your favourite ones.
I was kindly invited to present to the APG of Sweden a couple of weeks ago.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to talk about but had been playing with an analogy in my head for a few months: which is that we are in the business of launching satelittes (ideas) into space (our consumers mind).
That in itself is very simple, but in practice, very complex.
I’ve put together a presentation, but as with all these things, it takes forever to get it perfect, and I don’t have that time at the moment.
So I thouhgt I’d put it up there, and if it springs any ideas, please drop me a line.
If your ideas are any good, I’ll put them in the presentation and dedicate you the slide, with your picture and a link to your blog / website / twitter / whathaveyou. You will become an instant advertising celebrity overnight, your hair will grow thicker and you will start smoking the pipe.
Anyway, here it is:
Just made me laugh.
Say no to winter blues! Enjoy the beach with a polar bear!
But don’t fly there or!
It’s been a while hasn’t it? Missed me?
Alright, let’s go straight into the thick of things.
Since I’ve been back to London, I have been extremely surprised by how a lot of campaigns seem to have been inbred.
Let’s look at the definition of inbreeding from good old Wik:
Inbreeding is a genetic term that refers to reproduction as a result of the mating of two animals which are genetically related to each other. If the relationship is a close one or it is practiced repeatedly, inbreeding can increase the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits. This generally leads to a decreased fitness of a population, which is called inbreeding depression
We are well aware of the consequences of inbreeding in the human population. Let’s look at a famous example in history:
A twisted family…. that had dramatic results:
The prevalent inbreeding in the Habsburg family genealogy, beginning in prior generations, had given many in the family hereditary weaknesses and left the later generations prone to still-births. In Charles II, it resulted in being disfigured, physically disabled, and mentally retarded.
This is what he looked like
Not a good look. Although I guess he could lick his nose. Which is always a good party trick to entertain the guests.
I digress. The point is what inbreeding does for humans, or animals, it does for ideas.
And there seems to be a couple of ideas that have had a lot of inbreeding lately. Let’s take a look at a few recent campaigns:
The very irritable “what would you do if you had free text” from T-Mobile
On a pure professional point of view, getting this campaign in 2009 is a bit suicidal if you ask me, as texts have been virtually free for a few years now. So this guy in the ad, has been STOPPED from accomplishing his dream of forming a super band all these years because the cost of text messages was too expensive. COME ON!Don’t get me started with the rest of the campaign.
“If I ruled the world” from Vodafone.
And the next
“The Internet is under new management: YOU!” Yahoo.
“Windows 7 – My Idea: Ramin’s Snap”
Where we found out that Windows Vista had been developed by random people.
I could go on forever.
To various degrees, they are all inbred from a main chain of thoughts:
Power to the people. Power to the random people that is.
Someone has decided that what people want are software designed by people, not engineers. That we are interested in what ‘fake’ random people think. That our brands listen and pay attention to people. That we are big conglomerates but have a human voice. “Look at our campaign, we have real people in it. From the streets!”
I don’t want to be the new management of the Internet. I want someone who is paid to do that job to do it properly. Equally, I don’t want to pay hundreds of bucks to buy a software that has been designed by imbeciles. I just want it to work.
Besides, I don’t give a flying fuck about what people would do if they ruled the world or if they had unlimited text or Internet.
By trying to hold a mirror to our audience, we have completely failed in doing what we are supposed to do. Engage them. Tell our stories. Spectacle and narratives are the two most powerful forces at play in advertising. None of them come even close to using any of those.
It’s again another example of advertising looking into itself for inspiration. So much similarity in insight, execution, tone, etc. is shocking. Our advertising is disfigured by all that inbreeding.
Great work comes from great insight and fresh executions. What’s happened to those? The courage to do something new? Fresh? Exciting? Spectacular?
Let’s stop the inbreeding of ideas right now and get some fresh blood into our DNA I say. And that starts with better insights and ideas.
Well, It’s been a busy month.
Bit of news on my side. I’m leaving Amsterdam to go back to London town.
I’ve enjoyed my year here, but London is where my heart is.
I’m going to join Saint next week.
How ironic I hear you say. Joining a digital agency after commenting on the death of online agencies.
Well you see, people who know me would say typical.
First, I join a very nice group of people over at Saint. Young, talented and passionate.
I’m going back to my first love (digital that is), and will try to change the industry as much as I can.
I look forward to the challenge.
Be ready for more.