Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I beg to differ

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the three sweetest words a freelancer can ever hear:

"The strategy changed."

Sweet, because if the strategy has changed it means the work is wrong. Not wrong because of anything I or the other creatives have done. Or didn't do. It's simply wrong because the client has changed their mind.

When you're on staff that can be pretty demoralizing. It means starting over. It means all that thinking, all that crappy pizza, all those football games missed because you spent the weekend in the office, was all for naught.

Same goes for a freelancer, but it also means getting paid twice.
And who doesn't like getting paid twice?

Naturally, if you're an agency president or CEO, you'd like clients to stop changing the strategy. But don't count on that happening anytime soon.

Strategies, like everything else in the corporate world, start at the bottom. They're jammed out by junior clients sitting down with junior planners and junior account executives. More often than not these are the same twenty somethings who, five years earlier, were all gathered at the same fraternity parties playing beer pong and doing keg stands.

There's a chance they'll get the strategy right but there's also a chance my hair will grow back or that I will be able to slip into my 32 inch waist dungarees.

While these juniors haven't had much real business world experience, they have learned the cardinal rule for conducting ad agency business in the year 2014:

"Don't be difficult."

No one likes a contrarian. I can speak from experience on that. Confrontation, even of the most constructive sort, has no place in today's conference rooms.

You want to be a boat rocker, a pot stirrer or even a pirate, you get yourself a job in chartered accountancy.

The key, and millions of fast risers on linked in.com can tell you, to maintaining a good client/agency relationship is to know when to say no -- never.

Pushing back and hashing things out until they make sense, well, those are the practices of dinosaurs. Moreover, they lead agencies down a dangerous path that can only lead to one thing, the dreaded Review.


Better to nod your head, take copious notes, come back to the agency and tell the creatives exactly what the client wants. Then a week later, do it all over again.

Because the strategy always changes.

The process never does.

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