I use to be a client. I was in middle management and like a lot of the mid-management staff, one of my principle responsibilities was to liaison with the ad agency. I defined the issues, the objectives, possible solutions and handled the input meetings. I took care of all mar com projects for my group except for final approval of concepts and campaigns. The group VP took care of approvals. After I would have multiple meetings with the agency, reviewed multiple concepts and spent time and money developing possible solutions, the group VP would come in with new objectives, new questions and new expectations. The fact that we wasted time and money wasn’t the worst part. We effectively drained enthusiasm from the agency and more specifically the creative team. We were no longer getting the agency’s best ideas. That’s what would make the agency go quietly nuts. Oh, and invariably there was some heat passed around for not being able to read the VP’s mind.
Want to make the agency go berserk?
To make it worse, there was another midlevel manager, smarter than me, that would give input to the agency but always verbally. When concepts and solutions would come back from the agency that didn’t match what the VP thought he was looking for, the manager would blame the agency for not listening. This is why account people are not allowed to carry guns. And yes–somebody should have done a better job writing and distributing conference reports.
Whoever is charged with the responsibility to interact with the agency, give input, discuss objectives and consider solutions, should also have the authority to approve concepts, campaigns and sign off on costs. If you don’t trust a subordinate to be fully responsible for the agency, get a different subordinate. Better yet, work with the agency yourself. If you’re a C–level executive, you should make the ad agency a close, inner-circle confidant. If you don’t trust your agency that much, get a different agency. The person that writes and delivers the input, should be the person that approves the work. It’s all about being more competitive and kicking the competition’s ass.