The Best Clients Are The Ones That Don’t Know What They Want

The Best Clients Are The Ones That Don’t Know What They Want

Ben Skelsey (lead image) is APAC managing director at global creative consultancy Huge. In this guest post, Skelsey takes a long look at the current state of the client-agency relationship and offers some exciting options…

We’ve all been there: The client wants a new campaign, a new website, a new widget, and your team thinks it’s onto something bigger. Way bigger than the ask. The idea’s bold, differentiating and has the potential to fuel enormous growth for the client. Maybe it could result in new customers who don’t currently buy the brand. Or it’s a new product in a category crying out for fresh approaches. And so begins the discussion on how not to annoy the client and “make sure we answer the brief alongside presenting our new game-changing idea’. Because the client asked for an ad. Or a website. Or a widget. Not an idea that will help them meaningfully grow.

Nobody’s questioning the role of creativity in making a great ad or experience. But while many perceive creativity as an input for crafting compelling communications, its true power lies in its ability to accelerate growth. Clients that approach agencies with a problem to solve, rather than with a predetermined solution, open the door to game-changing creative solutions that can crash categories and lead to an unassailable lead on competitors.

On the other hand, execution-driven clients expect their partners to deliver on their predetermined strategies and tactics, and are consequently less open to new, let alone better, ideas. Execution is undoubtedly important; after all, a superior idea will get you nowhere if the craft required to realise it doesn’t cut the mustard.

But executing the wrong thing well won’t drive game-changing results.

When Seven West CMO Melissa Hopkins was on stage for Cannes in Cairns earlier in the year, she said, “What I tell my agency partners is I’m interested in one thing: positive EBIT”.

Hers is not just a savvy posture, but a mandatory one if you want a board to embrace creativity in solving business challenges. If you can’t ladder it back to EBIT, then upstream creativity ain’t for you. The rewards for getting it right, though — for the client and its partner — are massive. The amount of data available, plus tools that help you derive real, actionable insights from that data, will help you make the case.

The flipside to all this is, often a client just wants an ad. Or a website. Or some other communication. And that’s cool if they are going to judge your team’s performance on what can be achieved with allocated budgets in those spaces. It’s a prescribed answer, it comes with prescribed KPIs. Ultimately though, profit and growth trajectory should be the leading lenses.

Famously, Steve Jobs held weekly jam sessions with Apple’s partners and his own team to chew through everything from marketing strategy to new product development. Incorporating creativity upstream can drive more effective and sustainable solutions for growth, and help avoid some of the wrong decisions, too.

Ah, if only we could model this. If only some case studies could prove the utility of pushing creativity upstream into the boardroom. If only there was a platform that allowed homeowners to provide affordable and unique accommodation for travellers who didn’t want a cookie-cutter hotel experience. Or a battery-powered car that could accelerate faster than any petrol-powered model ever made, and be charged virtually anywhere. Or a technology brand that opened its own stores to control the entire sales experience of its premium electronic devices.

The case studies, of course, are written directly into the daily lives of millions.

As creative partners, we need to be in the business of helping client boardrooms change from zones of “If only” lament to “What if?” wonder. If we can help our client look past the brief and perceive the bigger challenge to solve — and the bigger opportunity to seize — we’re no longer in the execution business. We’re right where our clients need us: in the growth business.




Please login with linkedin to comment

Ben Skelsey Huge

Latest News

Zitcha appoints Josh Forsyth as sales lead to drive retail media growth across APAC
  • Advertising

Zitcha appoints Josh Forsyth as sales lead to drive retail media growth across APAC

Following global expansion and continued strong local demand Zitcha appointed Josh Forsyth as APAC sales lead. Lead image: Josh Forsyth, sales lead, Zitcha. Australian-headquartered Zitcha, which operates across four continents in countries including the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, is looking to Asia as the next major emerging retail media market. In […]

Moët Hennessy NZ Adds Special PR To Agency Roster
  • Advertising

Moët Hennessy NZ Adds Special PR To Agency Roster

Special PR has been added to Moët Hennessy’s roster of communications agencies in New Zealand following a competitive pitch. Special PR will be responsible for integrated communications for Moët Hennessy across its luxury brands, including Cloudy Bay, Whispering Angel, Veuve Clicquot and Glenmorangie. The scope of work includes media relations, influencer marketing, content creation, events […]