I was born an advertising guy. I found the business a playfield of bliss, elixir, quicksand and mire; elation and elevation. It was an industry of magic and alchemy and fact based decision making – that’s why JWT’s symbol of an owl and a lamp always resonated with me. I worked for JWT for ten years in two countries. The owl and the lamp symbolized wisdom and magic which was the quintessential solution. I don’t know if the business is the same today as we chase the Yankee dollar. We chased money then, too, but was it less desperate.
I went to a Think LA Mirren New Business Conference recently. Both consultants and agencies lamented that agencies were increasingly seen as vendors. Some cited statistics such as companies like Kraft have 17 agencies.
I was recently talking to a young person in the business who works in the game in the show of Chicago. The game is pretty fast paced when you have to pay to rent skyscraper floors. She joined her agency recently. Although she is young she is very seasoned and agency wise for her years, she said her agency was luck,y because they have partner clients who don’t treat the agency like a vendor. I wanted to hear more. I was a seasoned pro looking for the wisdom of youth.
When I asked how they go about doing that, she replied with, “I’m not sure.” I was looking for the Promised Land. She explained to me that one thing they do is stay in touch with people that they used to work for, and people that used to work at the agency that went client-side. That’s simple great sense, I thought to myself. Good clients stay good clients when they go work for other companies. It is one of the best ways to build your agency’s book of business. I have always been a big proponent of mining your past in networking, which leads to New Business.
When I worked at JWT, I received a lot of training about the delicate balance between client demands, creative needs, and account management needs. One was a verse of intelligence that stayed with me like a dance in my brain: give them what they ask for, sell them what they need. Once you implemented that Mantra and turned it into a way of doing business, you no longer were a vendor agency, because you had a point of view based on both the owl and the lamp, and it’s hard to dispute fact and creativity. If they didn’t, you eventually recognized that you were probably not right for each other anyway.
The other way to avoid being a vendor agency is to prune you clients. I know, it hurts. We all know the benefits of pruning to make more hearty harvests in nature (and even in our lives), but it is hard to do in the agency business because of the drug of revenue. When you prune, some things don’t look very attractive at first, but with time come great blooms. It’s challenging, but guess what? So is advertising. That’s why you’re in the game.
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