Correcting our regions’ short sightedness.Posted: June 29, 2011
How often do you hear that a client is pitching its account after a long and successful marriage with its agency (i.e. more than 5 years)? Not very often? Because it doesn’t happen in this region. Clients here are not so loyal.
Actually it’s the psyche of the entire region. There are no loyalties except to those who appear ‘popular’ at a certain point in time. When something is a new fad (e.g. the latest hotel, the newest café, the newest trend), everyone runs to be part of it. But before you know it, the buzz inevitably runs out and people go searching for other new things to latch onto.
In the communication industry, on an individual level (apart from a handful of people who have built their media empires from the oil boom of the past decades and become sort of industry ‘icons’), a person or company can be the darling of the regional award scene one year, and hardly get a mention the next.
And how often do you hear that a project you’ve been working on for what seems like ages has been dropped, just like that? Perhaps it wasn’t well planned to start with?
Whatever the manifestation of this lack of loyalty and impromptu decisions, the reason we have arrived at this situation, I believe, is twofold:
1. Collectively we don’t have enough patience
When I started my communications career overseas, it was not rare to read headlines like ‘Reebok parts with its agency after 25 years’ or ‘Burger King parts with its agency after 15 years’. The reasons for parting was often because of a deep change in the philosophy or vision of one or both of the parties. The split was usually amicable and not really a surprise to either.
Like any good relationship, a client /agency /brand relationship strengthens and improves over time. Agencies need to be given the time it takes to truly understand and help shape a brand they are working on. And to learn from the mistakes that might happen along the way. And to follow a vision they and their client have for the brand. And to foster customer relationships.
But all too often in our region, the agency turnaround on a brand is too quick, and agencies are not treated as true partners in a relationship. They are dropped at a whim and clients find it too easy to call for a pitch or award the business to another more ‘friendly’ agency.
2. We don’t value spending time planning before building
We don’t spend time when building brands.
And brands don’t spend time building brand communities.
And clients don’t spend time building their agency or their customer relationships.
And corporations don’t spend time building their staff or their reputations.
I think there are many reasons for this lack of long term loyalty and planning culture:
Sadly, most clients have a high staff turnover, and the new team wants to work with people they are used to. So they fire the old agency and wheel in a new one.
And the region seems for many to be transient, a stop for a few years to make some money and live a life they wouldn’t ordinarily lead back home. So they don’t have any interest in long term planning and would rather implement because that’s what looks good on the CV.
Or it could be the lack of quality (qualitative) research being done by clients and agencies to truly understand the consumer in the market and their deep desires and motives. And most importantly the different cultures, deeply ingrained traditions, beliefs and habits held in the region.
And, (this might sound harsh) but I think there are many people who don’t know how to plan. And don’t know how to maintain a good relationship.
I think we are all worse off because of this lack of patience and commitment to longevity. The brand loses continuity and focus, the client loses, the customers lose and as individuals we lose the gratification that comes from seeing a brand grow and develop. The region is worse off because we lose our identity. Communication starts to feel superficial, not connected with the audience, and there is no continuity in the brand/ corporate conversation.
What do we about it? I don’t have the answers – but for a start, clients need to be educated in how to deal with their agencies and rewarded for maintaining agency relationships. They need to learn that a good agency is an asset that can help them and their brand shine.
We need to start having open, honest and transparent conversations based on mutual trust and win-win situations. Clients need to start treating agencies as partners rather than having a client vs. agency attitude. That’s what we’re trying to do here at Livingroom.
What about you? What’s your experience with your client or agency? I’d like to hear your point of view.