In a recent pitch I was reminded once again how important it is to share a range of strong, strategic ideas with clients. Too often other agencies allow good work to end up on the cutting room floor for all of the wrong reasons—“their management won’t go for it” or “the client will never execute it.”
Internal reviews should ensure strategic relevance, but that doesn’t mean all the work should look and feel the same. Sometimes, agencies get browbeaten into sharing only the safe ideas with clients. But our responsibility as an agency is to explore ideas and present fresh ways to reinforce a brand and deliver messaging, in a way that breaks through and stands apart from competitive clutter. Clients want and expect to see a breadth of thinking—ideas that push and inspire new thoughts and directions—not just safe, safe, and safer campaign options.
For example, after we pitched our creative work to one prospective account, the client laid out our four campaigns and reordered them to show us how she would sell the work to upper management. It was great to get such transparent and candid feedback. The client led off with the safe idea that was well within their comfort zone, followed by the work that really pushed, and then wrapped with an idea little closer in. We discussed the further-out campaigns at great length. She felt that they were daring and different, but strategically sound. They had the greatest appeal for her and she felt the work truly delivered on the brand promise. We all knew that her management would not gravitate towards those campaigns—let alone produce them—but they showed our capabilities, as well as our agency’s ability to explore creative options while still delivering a broad range of solid ideas.
I need to attribute this advice to my counterpart, Flora Caputo, executive creative director at Jacob’s Agency. Over the course of our working relationship, we’ve collaborated on numerous pitches and campaign work. She is tireless in her pursuit of new ways to solve the creative challenge. And she’s mentored her team to look beyond the expected and to strive to deliver distinctive work. Only by pushing boundaries are you able to discover where your communications sit within the spectrum of approaches. As Flora says, “Don’t just give clients what they asked for. Give them also what they need.”
Speaking of the agency/client relationship, we’re often confronted with the words: ‘The work is getting tired and the client wants fresh thinking.’ Some of our most successful campaigns have been birthed from that third or fourth concept—the idea that really pushed—with clients we’ve had for years. Just like any kind of relationship, you need to make the effort and strive to keep what’s important top-of-mind. Clients want to know that you’re not just sharing rinse and repeat ideas to them. They want to know that you’re thinking about their business and always making an effort to breathe new life into their brands.