At one of the last ad-agencies I worked at I didn’t enjoy it.
A bank had phoned me direct and asked me to do a campaign for them.
Gordon and I did something we really liked and we worked it up into a presentation.
As we were getting ready to go, the Head of Planning asked if he could see the work.
He hadn’t been involved, but I said sure and showed him the campaign.
He said, “What else have you got?”
I said, “Nothing else, why?”
He was shocked, “You’re only taking ONE campaign.”
I said, “Why would we take more if we think this one is right?”
He said, “But what if the client doesn’t like that one?”
I said, “We’ll listen to their feedback and we’ll do another campaign, and repeat the process until we get something we’re both happy with.”
He said, “Why don’t you just give them the choice up-front and save time?”
I said, “Are you saying we should take a lot of campaigns we don’t think are right so that, if the client doesn’t like this one, they can pick something from the pile we don’t think is right?”
He said, “But if you only show one campaign the client’s got no choice.”
I said, “So you’re saying we should just put the campaigns up around the wall and let the client walk around and pick whatever they like. So they’ve really just hired us to crank out a selection of any-old campaigns, so really we’re just a studio.”
Obviously we couldn’t agree.
He’d only ever worked one way and I’d only ever worked a different way.
I was in the business of advertising, that agency was in the business of making money.
They are not the same priority.
In the business of advertising, the consumer is the most important.
In the business of making money, the client is the most important.
If the client likes the ads they’ll give you money, if they don’t they won’t.
In that world the agency serves the client, the job is to second-guess what the client likes.
In my world, the agency and the client both serve the consumer.
Sure every agency will pretend they’re serving the consumer, no agency is going to admit that it will do whatever the client wants just to get its hands on the money.
But I’d never worked in an agency like that, so it took me by surprise.
Many years ago, when I worked at BMP, John Webster and I had each done a separate campaign for the same pitch.
John couldn’t decide between them, he liked both, so he recommended that we show both at the pitch.
Stanley Pollitt (the man who invented Account Planning) said absolutely not.
In his opinion that was an amateurish way for professionals to behave, we didn’t give the client a range of campaigns to choose from.
That was the equivalent of saying we have no opinion so you choose for yourself.
The client had hired us because we were specialists in advertising, it was our job to recommend the right solution for their problem.
A doctor doesn’t give you a range of ailments and ask which you’d prefer.
They evaluate the possibilities and recommend the correct course of action.
It was our business to select the best advertising solution for the client’s problem.
Stanley was happy to research both campaigns and make a recommendation, but he wouldn’t provide options any more than a doctor would provide optional diagnoses.
Options, if they happened, would occur in sequence not in parallel.
I think agencies, and account planning, have changed and not the way Stanley intended.
We are self-service now.