How to be a Great Client—Part 7: Choosing the Work

I have to make a confession: I was not a great client. When I was a senior executive at a national non-profit consortium in NY, my colleagues and I had Leo Burnett’s Chicago office as our agency. I remember our account director Jeffrey very clearly. Jeffrey wore beautiful Paul Smith suits that accented his sandy blond crewcut and clear blue eyes. He was bright, charming, gracious—and no matter how argumentative and difficult we were, he was eternally cheerful. Cheerfully persistent, that is. Because eventually, despite our tendency to make things complicated and involve way too many people in the decision-making process, he always got his way. And his way was really what was best for us. In many ways he came to exemplify for me the qualities of a perfect account guy.

What Jeffrey was especially good at was presenting the creative work. I remember that he never brought his creative team with him to presentations, and rarely even had them on the phone. He came solo, with foam core boards in hand, and always there was a story that set the stage. In our big steely conference room at our headquarters on Wall Street, Jeffrey would hold court and show us the work that his team in Chicago had created.

What I remember best is how he coached us how to choose creative work among the options that he would show us. He said, “There are only two things that really matter. Is it on brief? And what do your instincts say?” Is it on brief? And what do your instincts say? Such sage and simple advice. Because when creative work not only corresponds to the approved creative brief, but it also speaks to your better instincts (that part of your mind that can sense what the public will like, because you are part of the public yourself), then you can be fairly certain you have a winner.