June 16, 2009

Client conscience

A post today on Why Advertising Sucks? (cause, really, it does just that sometimes) blogged about what we would do if confronted with a project from a client we really, truly didn't believe in. Cigarettes. Or Alcohol. Or big polluters. Or anyone who uncomfortably confronted our own views of the world.

Tough choice, that.

But it also got me thinking about waste. And by that I mean the millions upon millions of dollars flushed away every year by clients who are indecisive. Who can't pick something and stick with it. You know who I mean: The one who hums and haws, asks 20 people's opinion, gathers all their conflicting comments, and asks you to please start over. And ca-ching go the agency coffers, yes?


That means client B gets pushed aside. Again.

It means negotiating a big bill at the end of a project (and what insecure client doesn't balk and demand to pay less?).

It means late nights for nothing.

And it means a whole lot more for Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public.

I often wonder what people would say if they knew how much utter waste a bad client can trail behind them. I've seen taxpayer money shell out for 25--yes, 25--concepts and cross-country focus groups, only to have the project collect dust on some department shelf. You want to know where the money should come from to save health care? I have a very good idea.

I've also seen clients from private companies play the personal-opinion game. As in "I don't like yellow," or "find me a (royalty-free) picture just like that, but make the guy 5 years younger and facing the other way." They need to put their 2 cents' in everything--perhaps to feel like they're contributing, perhaps to justify their involvement. Would that they added something to the brief, or the creative direction. But no--it's nit pick and stall and change-my-mind for weeks on end. It's a whole bunch of noise about nothing.

And while the hours and the bill add up, the customer at the end of the line is hit with user-fee hikes and interest charges galore.

Money in, money out.

I'm talking just one agency here. I can't imagine what the waste would be if you took the pointless excess from every client in the agency world and added that together. I think world hunger could be eliminated. And I'm not kidding.

I've worked with a lot of really, really good clients. They trust the agency, ask hard questions, make excellent suggestions--guide us all to do better work. But it's these nit-picking nitwits who flaunt their incompetence that make our agency lives a little bit of a living hell.

And they're doing it with the money straight out of our personal pockets.


  1. Teenie, swinging the sledgehammer!

    You've said so much so well here. My only comment is that these are people that would have starved to death 100 years ago; today, they're creating their own job security. (And, as you point out, they're often doing it with the money we paid to them in taxes.)

  2. When there is suspicion of over or bad spending in government, a consultant is hired to confirm "Yup you is broke".

    Has Joe Client evolved (or been genetically altered) to think that a great ad can't be one shot?

  3. Jake: You make a good point. 100 years ago, they would have had to prove their worth. Today, they just have to complain about agency incompetence or make like George Kastanza and eat Kung-Pow chicken until they sweat at their desks.

    jeaves: Oh, yes--the consultant! One of our clients had a consultant come in and rearrange ALL the furniture. Now they're worse than ever...

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  5. Let's try that again. Thought you'd enjoy this, a corollary to your point about back-and-forth and wasting of tax dollars, with a side order of Ego Run Amuck. I messed up the tinyurl the first go-round.


  6. Oh, that's bad--truly bad. And all on taxpayer money. Worse, I doubt it's an isolated incident. The money that goes down the drain when people think they have absolute job security...

  7. I don't think I have ever heard a sports commentor say that "They don't deserve to win the Stanley Cup, there wasn't enough shots on net.Let's extend the game to let them take a few more pokes."

    Maybe the Agencies need to mandate set time limit on projects, and if you aren't finished because the client insists on rework, you go to a shoot out.