The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Loose Lips Cost Cash …
May 10, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So a week or so ago, I wrote about how many brands heap praise on their agency when they’ve just fucked them over and chosen a new partner.

Well that got me thinking and I’ve come to the realization that in the main, there are only 2 points in a client/agency relationship where you’re kind and considerate to eachother:

The beginning.
The end.

Yep, those first few weeks where the relationship is starting to blossom and then those last few days, where you’re all trying to pretend you still care about eachother, even though you both know one of you has just fucked the other over and you’re not happy about it.

And what happens in the time in-between?

Utter, utter carnage.


Lack of respect.

Unrealistic timelines, budget constraints and expectations.



Childish demands.

Basically a war … where both sides end up thinking the other is a fuckwit.

Of course not every client/agency relationship is like this, infact the majority aren’t, however I do find it interesting that unless there’s some major campaign being launched, you rarely hear a client openly praise their agency.

Or vice versa.


Well there’s a lot of reasons, one of them simply being that the press don’t give a shit about covering client/agency relationships unless they are at the beginning or the end of the process – however one other possible reason is that public praise has financial implications.

What do I mean?

Well my hypothesis – and that’s all it is – is that with so many companies basically being controlled by the finance department, the level of remuneration paid to external partners is very carefully monitored and so one of the biggest no-no’s is to end up increasing your cost/investment over time.

And what is one of the best ways to insure against this?

By never letting your agency think they are doing a good job so when it comes to renegotiating your contract, you can push them to lower their costs rather than pay more.

Yes … yes … it’s a pure, unadulterated conspiracy theory … however if you subscribe to the point of view that if you follow the money, you often end up finding the truth, you might not dismiss this view immediately.

So how do you counter this?

Well, there’s many ways but one of them is to accept how a business truly operates – and that is not on relationship, but profit.

Alright, that’s not strictly true, because as I said a while ago schmoozing isn’t sleazing, it’s creating – however the reality is if you’re in the finance department and your role is looking after the companies balance sheet, it will be very rare if you care – or consider – how well your Marketing Director gets on with the agency.

So what that means is that you only have one real option available to you … an option that makes ‘renegotiating’ much harder and makes the relationship between agency and client much more balanced.


Yep, gaining undeniable evidence that your work has had a strong and clear financial benefit to the company.

Real financial benefit – not smoke and mirrors like awareness or media value or, to a certain extent, an ‘advertising effectiveness award’ – but something that directly and loudly impacts the bottom line.

Of course to achieve that requires a few things.

1. A client who can clearly articulate what is needed.
2. An agency who can identify & tackle real problem, not just ad problems.
3. A client who is open minded, not executionally specific.
4. An agency who can think beyond the ad.

Sure, that is sometimes a big ask, however when it does happen – as I’ve been fortunate to experience on more than a few occasions – you can make something amazing happen, something that is meaningful, powerful and sustainable … which means that when it comes to negotiation time, you find it’s you that holds the cards – not just the client – and you can go about building a mutually beneficial relationship that flourishes on trust, not ever decreasing remuneration levels.

We’re not in it together, but we can be.

30 Comments so far
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Interesting read Rob, especially as I can say from first hand experience that you have always ensured there’s a great and respectful relationship between client and agency.

You’ve mentioned a number of possible reasons why public client/agency praise tends to be focused at the beginning and end of relationships but isn’t another reason that on many occasions, the team you at the pitch (who impresses or makes the decisions) isn’t the team you work with on a daily basis?

Underpinning this post is the need for both parties to treat their working relationship like a romantic relationship. Invest time in it, grow it, build something together and always make sure you meet and invite the entire family, even the accountant cousin.

Comment by Pete

Are you kidding Pete?

What about Rob and Citibank, Pepsi, Singer, Hyundai, Qantas?

There’s so many examples where he didn’t just kill relationships, he actively went out and murdered it.

He was pretty much always in the right, but still, don’t make him out to be a saint with political aspirations.

Comment by DH

Fair. Let me rephrase it. Rob was very good at forging a positive relationship with clients that interested and intrigued him. Better?

Comment by Pete

you forgot to mention how clients saw through his good client criteria and promised him all sorts of “interesting” projects because they knew hed squeal like a fucking 6 year old at a bieber concert and offer to do it for free “just for the chance to do something so cool”. fucking gullible twat.

if it wasnt for me none of you fuckers would ever have got fucking paid.

Comment by andy@cynic

and if there was a freebie in it for him, hed fucking wet his panties over them. do i hear anyone say virgin atlantic?

Comment by andy@cynic

but when he gave a client some tough love, they fucking deserved it. ill reluctantly give him that. they didnt think so but they thought the sun shone out of their fucking collective arses.

Comment by andy@cynic

Was citibank the one Rob did the infamous “360” comment to?

A rare moment of Campbell class.

Comment by DH

Think so but my favourite was that fucked nappy research meeting where at the end he said “so you haven’t found anything new or interesting?”

He’s much tamer now. Read boring.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Huggies. The client that paid us to not run the ad we made. Forgot about that. The most profitable client in our history.

I almost liked Rob back then.

Comment by DH

stop sounding like a couple of fucking campbell groupies. hes not that good and not that nice. get a fucking grip on yourselves and remember what a fucking mischief making nightmare he was.

Comment by andy@cynic

Can you stop making me sound that I was a complete bastard when I was “younger”.

Did I have a few run-in’s with clients? Yes.

Did I occasionally cross the line? Yes.

Was I a fucking thug bastard? No … well, not unless they were insulting to me, my colleagues or the human race … so can we just add a sense of realism to the ‘history lesson’, especially as I never vomited over a clients desk – even if, amazingly, that sort-of forged the relationship rather than destruct it.

Something I still am trying to work out.

Comment by Rob

you fucking started it.

Comment by andy@cynic

Great point Pete – you have to work on relationships like you have to work on anything, and that definitely includes the ‘bean counters’, not just your day-to-day clients.

Comment by Rob

And your last line is a great line.

Comment by Pete

It’s also true. Funny how few people seem to realise that.

Comment by Rob

Or people could refer to your Monday post and make things much better without any additional effort.

Comment by DH

good fucking point there dave.

Comment by andy@cynic

On the positive Rob, agency/client relationships are still lasting longer than most marriages. Well, the Hollywood drug fucked starlet/ageing producer ones.

Comment by DH

i think i must have married 2 of the fuckers.

startlets, not ageing producers.

Comment by andy@cynic

Good post. Good comment. (from Pete)

Comment by George

you wouldnt know good if it came up and smashed you in your pretty little face and as your most generous friend, i am willing to put myself out and prove that fucking fact to you.

Comment by andy@cynic

You’re all give, give, give.

Comment by George

and you lot are all take, take fucking take.

Comment by andy@cynic

You’ve been to some cutting-edge conference about the benefits of this new thing called collaboration, haven’t you?

Comment by John

You mean the one where you smile at eachother while still secretly trying to fuck eachother over or the other one?

Comment by Rob

bet some planning fuck claims they have devised a proprietary tool for that shit even though the only proprietary tool would be them. cocks.

Comment by andy@cynic

Isn’t collaboration doing what you tell us to do Andy?

Comment by DH

Oh I have no doubt that is true. Given that there are many pitches held purely to reduce costs rather than improve creativity.

That then causes part of the problem, because with less cash combined with tight deadlines you don’t have as much time to create an effective strategy, nor great creative work; and its easy to get sucked into a process of churn where in order to make a profit the agency has to produce work it isn’t happy with.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

I think we all can relate.. some of us to the winning case as well 😉

Comment by Jansait

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