How to be a Great Client—Part 1: Why?

Much has been written about what constitutes good advertising and how to be a good agency. Agency people love talking about themselves (myself included, obviously), each other, and their work.
But rarely do we hear from agencies or clients any insight or point of view on being a great client. So here it comes.

First, let’s begin with a formative question: Why is being a great client important? And the corollary questions: Does it even matter? Isn’t the client always right? Shouldn’t the client simply get what they want?

The best way to answer this is to come at it from a different angle, by understanding the difference between a “consumer” and a “client” in the context of advertising. Consumers, generally speaking, are not directly involved in the making of the product, and while they may at times contribute their feedback and opinions once the product or service is in market, they are arm’s length away from the actual process. Clients, on the other hand, play a very direct role in shaping the brand that is being advertised, from conceiving of the brand, to the strategy, all the way to final execution. Great advertising that you see in market is visible to you—only because a client paid for it, helped guide it, and approved it. Every step of the way.

My friend Mary Koven recounted to me how she was about to attend the Marketing Awards and one of her senior clients (a big packaged good company) said to her, “Well, I guess we’re about to see the best work from your industry tonight, eh?” Mary’s response was, “No. We’re about to see the best work that clients allowed.” A brilliant and accurate answer.
So why is it imporant to be a great client? Because as a client, you’re paying good money in fees, production, and media. You might as well be instrumental in ensuring that your investment is well spent and brings you the results you want. Because you are instrumental, regardless.

In future posts, we’ll explore the many aspects of “how” to be a great client. And how to choose the right agency, and forge a great relationship with that agency so you enjoy outstanding results.