What clients are looking for now

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In the days of "Mad Men," clients stayed with their agencies because of the perks of the relationship. In the next decade or two, it was all about the creative. Beginning with the first online ads, we stepped into the age of results -- and that's good news for direct marketers.

Proving ROI, however, is just the beginning. With the economy in a tailspin, clients are looking for results right now. Speed is essential.

Depending on your perspective, the world of advertising media is collapsing (if you're part of a traditional agency model where the TV audience is disappearing), emerging (if your perspective is solely digital, where everything new is desperately important and everything old is dead) or expanding exponentially (if you focus on direct marketing, where more and more media are becoming measurable).

Clients want their agency to lead them through these mind-boggling changes. Finding the target audience used to be as simple as "Thursday night on NBC." Now Thursday is when you update your Flickr photos, Twitter what you're doing, listen to your iPod, play a game on your Wii and catch up on email. The mass audience is dispersed. It's a new world.

Clients want an agency well-versed in all media. Digital media gets a lot of the attention -- and, yes, eventually all media will be digital in some sense of the word. But that doesn't mean you can't still have impact with old media.

Agencies have always had to be nimble. Now there's not even time to do much focus group research -- you must test market programs on the fly and correct course quickly. Even big advertisers now push out multiple campaigns and see what sticks. For GEICO, is it cavemen, a lizard, celebrity interpreters or Kash, the character made of money? Burger King kills ads that don't work -- and does it fast.

Clients want the whole package -- a trinity of a healthy working relationship, quality creative work and measurable results. And now each component can be intensified if you provide it even faster.

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