Monday, December 29, 2008

Account management 101

On the ferry today I was considering how unique the interaction between clients and agencies is. 

Clients hire agencies to be creative. To come up with ways of saying things that are more interesting and engaging than they, the client, could come up with on their own. They also hire agencies to get the job done and make their lives easier.

Clients tend to pick agencies that they think they'll like working with and that they think will do a great job. Money and other elements come into play, but I believe that those first two items are at the core of the agency selection process.

Yet it's amazing how often those two, good work and ease of working together, come into conflict. And therein is the skill to managing agency/client relationships. You need to produce great work that the client will be proud of but the client also needs to feel good about working with you. 

This would be easy if clients and the agency always saw eye to eye. But that's not the reality. Other issues always come up, whether it's a personal, strategic, aesthetic or arbitrary differences. And it's at that point where agencies will feel that they're being asked to compromise and not do the best work possible for the client.

In this case, it would be easiest to cave in immediately and just do whatever the client asked. After all, that is what being "the client" means. The client pays the bills, so there is a feeling that the most efficient way to deal with a request is to just do what they ask.

The challenge is that to just do what they ask will often mean sacrificing the quality of the work being produced. If this was just a matter of creative integrity it would be one thing, but it's not. It's also a business problem. Because if the client request does reduce the quality of the work, then over the long term the agency is going to be producing a sub-standard body of work. That will impact the business and will cost the agency a client.

So, by not giving the client what they want and "pushing back" an agency can become viewed as difficult to work with. But by giving the client exactly what they want the agency risks providing sub-par creative work that will be unsatisfying to the client in the long run.

In the end, we do what we've always done: discuss, negotiate and try to create the highest quality work possible for a client while keeping them happy about working with us. 

It's not an easy job. It's stressful being in between the two objectives and trying to bring them together. Maybe if this whole advertising thing doesn't work out for me I'll consider bringing peace to the middle east.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

bitter sweet

If it weren't so sad, this might be one of my favourite news stories of the year. Can you imagine standing in the street in the snow watching someone drive off with your car, moments after you were so grateful to them?

Colleen and I went out the other day looking for people to help get their cars out of the snow. It's fun and gives you a nice warm Christmas feeling. I guess others get that warm feeling in other ways.

Why does this story have to come from Surrey?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Help wanted.

I was reading a designer I respect's blog today and he mentioned that he was looking for interns and others to work for free. I decided to steal a page from his blog and post my staffing needs.

I'm looking to hire an account supervisor (or two) to come work at TBWA\Vancouver. I'm hoping to find someone with a few years of experience in an agency, that can do both on and offline work, and who has a passion for creativity and big-idea thinking. They should be able to think strategically, but also not be above getting into the details.

This person would play a major role on one of our primary accounts and would be the lead on one or two other pieces of business.

We're a pretty good shop with strong creative and a great team feel. I think that this will be a pretty good role for whomever ends up in it and a great growth opportunity for them.

If you know of anyone, have them call me. (604) 219-6826.

I'm alive.

I'm here.

My last couple of postings were on the conclusion of my job hunt. Not surprisingly, now that I am gainfully employed again I've had a lot less time to add to my blog. But, then again, people with way busier lives, more important jobs, and far deeper thoughts than me keep their blogs updated, so I've got no excuse.

A brief work related synopsis of my past month for those who know me personally but rarely see me. (And I believe that that comprises the majority of my readers, sadly enough.)

I started at TBWA as the Director of Client Services. The people there are terrific and I'm enjoying myself immensely. It has been a crazed and hectic month though. The team that I inherited had a couple of people with a great deal of experience and a few with almost none. They had fallen a bit behind in a few key areas, like billing, which are not what the business is about but without which you can't do the business. We had also just implemented a new project management/time management/billing system called Workamajig, which is terrific and cool but makes things challenging for the first little while. So a lot of the first month was spent getting the ship righted. We've done that now and things are looking up.

We've also been involved in a few new business things over the past month. We picked up a project for the IOC to do design for The Olympic Club. We're going to start doing Olympic related work for Visa. And on Friday afternoon we were awarded the Okanagan Spring business. So it's been a pretty killer month on that front.

The agency is great. It feels far more like a team than anything I've been involved with in the past. The senior leadership are very involved on a day-to-day basis. And the work that we're putting out is very strong. Not everything's perfect, but the challenges that are there are definitely manageable and may reflect more opportunity than anything.

The bottom line is that I'm pretty happy and things are going well. Now that some items are under control, I hope to post more frequently again, but I'm not making any promises.