A client speaks

We tend not to hear that much honest insight from clients, which is why this article is worth a read.

It’s written by Lesya Lysyj who, aside from being a great Scrabble score, is the ex-CMO of Heineken. And with that experience behind her she comes out with gems like this:

They (your agency) are problem solvers. And creative problem solvers, which you (clients) probably are not.

I bet you thought no client in the world actually believed that. If only they all had it tattooed inside their eyelids.

You know that no matter what you give the agency, it changes when the the creative team is briefed, right?

Damn… Has she bugged the ten minutes following every single briefing I’ve ever had?

Just get to the seven to 10 words that the creative team is going to create from. Sometimes a creative brief is right on strategy but not going to net good ideas. 

This is golden, golden, golden advice for all planners who are kind enough to read this blog. This seven to ten words are really all that’s needed. Sometimes you like having the other stuff that fills the page for when you get creatives’ block or need something to read on the lav, but in general we only care about the proposition.

Let’s admit it: Creatives are way cooler than we are. They can wear shorts to a creative presentation. They probably are part owners of a craft brewing company. You live in the suburbs and take your kid to soccer practice. Don’t tell me that doesn’t play into the dynamic of not wanting to tell the cool kids who never talked to you in high school that you don’t like their idea. I absolutely love interacting with creatives. I find them genuine, funny and super talented at something I could never do. If you can get past being intimidated, you might find the same.

I blush because I disagree with her kind opinion. We’re not fucking cool. We used to be, but not anymore. It is the complicit leaching away of that perception of coolness that has left us on what feels like a long train journey from Soho to Siberia. Nothing we do is a mystery any longer. It all looks a bit too easy. I’d ignore her compliments and do whatever you can to make the creation of brilliant ads seem tricky. Yes, I know it is tricky. No one really does it anymore; that’s how tricky it is. But you can do it. Don’t settle for nicking stuff off YouTube or wrapping your client’s logo around a can of someone else’s paint. Make Surfer or Grrrr. Make them all think we’re cool like we used to be. Then we will be as cool as we used to be.

Make sure you find a way to give creatives clear direction. I repeat: Clear direction. This means pick a couple of horses early in the race and don’t make them go back and work on everything. 

This goes for CDs as much as it does for clients. More so, in fact.

Someone once told me the best clients are the ones who, if you walk into the room, you wouldn’t know who was the agency and who was the client. Strive for that.

With some of the clients I’ve met there has often been an odd dynamic where they kind of play up to the role of being the lame idiot who lives in the suburbs. And in creating that image of themselves, they create the way you act towards them and the whole thing continues in a weird cycle of unevenness. I’ve always preferred the strong client who makes the situation a collaboration because they know what they want and will stand firm to get it (assuming their ideas aren’t bloody awful. I’m looking at you, marketing guy from a major UK pizza chain).

But in general they really are just slightly different human beings who happen to be caught up in the same situation as you. With a bit of luck, bearing that in mind might lead to an improvement in your finished work.