The elephant in the room: which clients are a pain to work with?

12 Jul

signs pointing to heaven and hell

The Talent Business, a UK recruiting firm, has just released its findings from a survey of 400 global advertising executives to determine which clients are a dream to work with and which are a nightmare. Story here.

Most of the attention will focus on the bad ones, because that’s human nature. But the real value for advertisers is reading what the dream clients are doing well. And hopefully learning from it.

This is not hockey. Advertising people are rarely motivated by being “broken” to work the coach’s system. We go above and beyond for the businesses we really care about. Generally those are the ones open to exciting ideas, who treat their marketers with respect and don’t feel the need to dominate every facet of the relationship.

It’s hardly surprising that Nike, Apple, Adidas, Coca Cola, Google and Volkswagen top the list of favourite clients. The marketing that is done for these giants regularly sparkles out there. It’s innovative, ever-changing and joyful.

Then there is SC Johnson, a family company, and L’Oreal. You can just feel the heavy gray mist descending.

They “produce the lowest common denominator advertising and are a pain to work with”.

Reps for these companies were unavailable for comment.

In my experience, good clients stick to their areas of real expertise, inspire their teams for the challenge of growth and success, and foster real human relationships with their agency staff, void of any master/slave undertones. The ones that treat their advertising support like bit players in their own personal sado-masochistic role-play fantasies will never be loved, fought over or given the game-changing work.

Should businesses care that their ad agencies think they are a pain to work with?


2 Responses to “The elephant in the room: which clients are a pain to work with?”

  1. Paige July 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    It makes sense that the ones willing to take risks and embrace change will be fun to work with, while those who want to play safe will be more likely to hamper creativity.

    • Doug Brown July 12, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

      You’re right for the most part Paige. I acknowledge that the survey was about businesses and not individuals per se. Sometimes you meet extraordinary people working for dud clients who want to soar but are obliged to play it safe. Still, businesses, like fish, rot from the head down. The leadership sets the tone and takes the blame.
      Thanks for that comment!

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