By Dave Marinaccio, CCO and Co-Founder of LMO Agency
When it comes to giving clients your best work, the only thing an advertising agency can do is make recommendations. We can advise, suggest, cajole, even sit on the floor and beg like a dog, but we do not make the final decisions. If a client won’t buy your good stuff, there isn’t much you can do about it. It is their money, after all.
In the world of advertising, great work usually reflects more on the client than the agency. Take a great account like IKEA. When I worked on the account for the Swedish furniture manufacturer and outlet, we produced fun and creative ads. Give the same account to almost any agency in America, and wonderfully creative IKEA ads will suddenly start coming out of that shop.
Good clients get good work. Bad clients get bad work. There are exceptions but fewer than you think. This produces a great dilemma in the advertising business, and in most other industries. Many profitable accounts are very bad clients.
The dilemma is not whether your company should pursue these profitable bad boys. The problem is how to delude ourselves into thinking we will change them into good accounts. After all, working on a crappy account is better than walking the street looking for a job.
One of the great myths in business is that you can turn a bad client into a good client. The reason we believe this myth is twofold. First is the fact that all companies hold to an unshakable belief that they are better than their competitor down the street. That they have understanding and talent that no one else does. They believe they are special.
The second reason is M-O-N-E-Y. The more profitable an account, the greater the willingness there is to look past obvious flaws. Money blinds us to the fact that an account is terrible to work on.
Denial and greed are a potent combination.
Alas, your company will not change the bad client. More likely, the bad client will change the company. But it will all come down to the same thing. The client will get exactly the work they deserve.
Dave Marinaccio is an international bestselling author and successful marketing business entrepreneur. His bestselling book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned From Watching Star Trek, and his newest title, Admen, Mad Men, and The Real World of Advertising, are drawn from his long career in the advertising business. He is co-founder and SVP, CCO of Laughlin Marinaccio & Owens in Arlington, Va, which is now the largest shop in the D.C. area with over $100 million in billings.