Archive for February, 2011

Relationship matters

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Agency life
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Yesterday was Valentines Day and I did nothing. In fact, I felt somewhat liberated for ignoring it! I even played football instead and sympathised for some poor shmuck I saw standing at the bus stop with flowers and chocolates in hand (especially because I saw the price at the special ‘valentines day’ stall he got them from just minutes ago).

Anyhow (!) and contrary to what you must be thinking, this post is not about my personal relationship (I wouldn’t suggest you follow my advice on that anyway), it’s about a far more professional one – the client / agency relationship.

So, whether you’re a client side bigwig or funky agency stereotype, how familiar is this scenario…


1. Project scope is defined, cost is formulated.

2. Idea gets approved, cost needs to be reduced, ‘s(h)avings’ begin (see corners!).

3. Shavings are applied, project delivered (perhaps unsurprisingly) with a gaping hole in it.

Notice: the size of the hole is generally proportionate to a) the hit the client / agency relationship takes and b) the overspend required to manage the hole!

I’m sure that some part, if not all of the above, sounds familiar.

The solution? Simple!

4. Instead of focussing on shaving off corners, focus on changing the project approach.

5. So, in fact it’s not about delivering the same for less, it’s about finding a suitable project approach (yes, even if totally different to the original) that works within the budget.

It’s not easy, because it often means abandoning perfectly good ideas, which whilst seemed so good, were only really achievable at the originally proposed cost. Whether it means going back to the drawing board for the agency; or a client having to tell their boss “we had to scrap that idea”, it’s not always easy to do the right thing, but in the interest of the relationship, the only thing to do is rethink the approach.

After all, it’s easy (perhaps easier?) for a client to say “I want the same for the lower cost” or for an account director to say “we’ve got to deliver the original idea at the lower cost“, but, in my humble experience, over a long enough timeline these will both result in problematic relationships.

It seems simple, but it requires foresight, a (shared) understanding that you cannot deliver the same for less; and most importantly, it requires a desire from both sides for the (longer term) relationship to be preserved. And in this climate, with good (stable) agencies on one hand and good clients on the other, becoming harder to find, it is something that everybody should be bearing in mind – because this one can’t be fixed with bunch of flowers!

Could there soon be a time when an individuals buying power will be influenced by ones social networking activity? Can social network value actually be calculated to then used by businesses to create brand ambassadors or a new level of customer segmentation?

What sparked this for me recently is a random act of generosity by Apple. For no apparent reason after telling us it would cost over £200 to fix, Apple decided to fix the smashed screen on my iPad for free (I dropped canned tomatoes on it). They made clear it’s a once off ‘gesture of good will’ and whilst I made clear I don’t plan on dropping any more cans of tomatoes on it – the question still remains – why would they do this? Especially seeing as I was never more willing to hand over £200!

The importance of securing business today cannot be underestimated and businesses are rapidly understanding the power of social networking in achieving this. Obviously it wasn’t long after I left the Apple store that I Facebook’ed about Apples generosity, immediately letting my whole social network know of the incident. So, was I subject to a random act of kindness or had Apple assumed my social network value (at greater than £200)?

It sounds a little big brother, maybe a bit Hollywood. I’ve not seen the movie The Joneses but I hear it isn’t too far off what I’m talking about.

Today I learnt that Starbucks, Mazda and Argos have recently signed up for Facebook deals, offering Facebook users who “check in” using the Facebook Places feature on their mobile app, access to special offers and other deals. Will it be long before this idea extends, so that only those with a social network value above a certain value, or of a certain type, will be able to trigger the reward?

There is a risk to all this of course. Something outlined by Seth Godin recently, “Networking is always important when it’s real, and it’s always a useless distraction when it’s fake. What the Internet has allowed is an enormous amount of fake networking to take place, and it’s so easy to be seduced by it… and it’s nonsense.”

Where things get scary is where social network value could become a factor not only of the number of contacts one has, but what the combined value of ones network is. Introduce into this credit ratings, demographic data and anything else which is being collected about us today and you have a pretty frightening scenario to contemplate.