Are You A Bad Client?


The adage goes that clients get the advertising they deserve. While I don’t believe that’s always true, I do know some clients make it hard to do good work on their behalf.

What makes a client bad? Here’s a grab bag of traits.

Bullying. Just because you pay your ad agency, it shouldn’t entitle you to abuse it. Don’t threaten your team, pitch temper tantrums and act like they’re your enemy. This business works best when it’s collaborative and constructive. Trying to motivate through fear ensures you will not get their best thinking or your best results.

Mollycoddling. Being too nice and protective isn’t good, either. If there are ghosts in your corporate machine, tell us, so we know where the land mines are. If your agency disappoints, let people know. If you don’t like an idea, kill it. Now! Don’t let the poor thing suffer, being revised into oblivion then dying of neglect. Be candid, forthright. If you’re not, you’re wasting your time and your money. Our business is hard and the only way we’ll get better is by understanding your expectations. Marketing is a communications business. Please, communicate.

Fearful. Ever tried to drive by only looking in the rearview mirror? Fear blinds clients who only look to past successes in determining what to do in the future. There are no certainties, and if history has shown anything, it’s that blockbuster campaigns are different. So should you willy nilly toss the dice? No. But you should be open to the new thinking and trust your gut. If your only criteria for grading work is checking boxes based on the past or sanitizing the life out of a creative idea for fear of it offending someone, chances are you’re not doing anything great. Be brave, and encourage your agency not to be afraid to make you nervous.

Unaccountable. One of the worst things a client can do is being absent in the creative process and deflecting responsibility. Marketers who take a hands-off Teflon approach to their agencies because they don’t want to be held accountable are irresponsible. Ad agencies want to help, want to succeed, but we can’t do it alone. And it’s disheartening when we sense our client is intentionally absent, or only there to throw us under the bus. We need an active partner. You.

These are bad traits for clients or any businessperson, including ad agency people. I’d love to hear from clients–– what makes ad agency people bad?

Unload! If I don’t hear any, I may have to write a post on that subject.