(You can find a nice timeline on Ad Age here. And for a friendly, how-to implication for your new business program, skip ahead about eight ‘graphs.)
Me, I think the trouble started when FCB and Draft came together. The snobby, polished BDA (thank you, Mssr. George Parker) meets the brash, in-your-face Howard Draft & Company.
This coupling happened after my time at the agency. In full disclosure, yours truly was in new business over ten years ago at FCB Chicago. And loved it. A lot of what’s been written out there talks about a clash of cultures between Draft and FCB that still, to this day, might exist.
We should also let the record show that Draft, back in the day, had an enviable culture. I have heard some terrific stories from Draft folks that demonstrate an open, inclusive, fun, work hard/play hard type agency.
Then, you have SC Johnson. Midwestern, conservative, polite, big. From a cultural perspective, probably a whole lot more like FCB than Draft.
See where this is headed?
What’s an agency to do? What a tricky, political and high-stakes mess. Managing that is why people have fancy second homes and big, fat yachts.
Instead of a few bullet-pointy woulda/coulda /shouldas, or a rant about how shifting, now mis-matched cultures precipitated mortgage worries around the world…perhaps there’s something that could be extracted from this relationship that could be valuable to just about every client / agency partnership. Not to mention a pitch or two.
Find out where you stand. Know what your client thinks about you and your performance. You can ask of course. And I’m sure there are plenty of yearly, 360 degree type reviews you can do. Heck, you might just get an answer that’s helpful. But will your client tell you the real truth, even if it hurts a bit? Maybe. But maybe not. Your mileage will vary. Here are a couple of thoughts around how to get real perspective.
Hire it out. An experienced third party could be a smart way to go. Be careful on who and how you hire, though. Many agency search consultants offer this kind of service. But could then lead to some type of review. Rut-row. Just about the last thing you need.
Now, that’s a fairly broad stroke, bordering on being unfair. There are some good guys out there that would no doubt honor who is footing the bill.
Other resources to explore include agency-only consultants…or relationship guru type consultants. Folks that know the professions. The latter may not know the agency business well. But will understand billable service, intellectual property, team-building and all that.
Test your relationship. To some, ye olde actions speak louder than words. A great way to illustrate this point is a new business story I read in a great book from Don Peppers, Life’s A Pitch, Then You Buy. Worth adding to your library.
Anywho, one of the many great stories this master rainmaker tells is about how he needed to find out where his agency was going into a final pitch. So, he posed a question to the prospect around staffing. While he had the lead account pro identified, the junior AE had not been identified. So, “does this pose a problem for you, Prospective Client?”
If it’s OK with the prospect, you’re probably in good standing. But if not, it’s a challenge or a problem, things may not be all that great.
(Disclosure: in an attempt to be accurate, I have spent nearly 10 minutes looking for this story in this book. But have had no luck. No doubt I may be getting the details wrong. Happy to be corrected!)
Isn’t that a smart question?
So, Mssr. Peppers created a test out of a seemingly inconsequential detail of the relationship. What other details might there be like this? Should this idea have any merit to you, I’d encourage you to give it some additional thought.
Hope this has been more helpful than a woulda/coulda/shoulda. Shout with any comments. Would love to hear ’em!