We tend to forgive things when we like them.
We will forgive bad behaviour, bad news, bad clothes, bad decisions, bad time keeping. Because we like someone.
But an agency is there to diagnose a client’s problem and prescribe strategically sound creative solutions like a doctor does with a patient. Whether the client ‘likes’ them should be irrelevant. Logic should prevail.
But part of the job of an account person is to get the client to like the agency. To build sufficient props to allow some leeway when we do things badly. Like spelling mistakes and missed deadlines.
Really good ones get the client to like them personally too. And can build life long friendships with senior people. Like Frank Lowe used to do.
But the problem with being liked – is that we mentally take sides with our clients. We begin to anticipate what they will like to buy and what they won’t. Not necessarily what is right.
We become complicit in the way they think and act. We entrain ourselves with them and collude in their way of seeing the world.
Life is easier when lots of people like you. It’s a Herd thing – just ask Mark. Most importantly we feel safer – which helps in troubled times.
And perhaps during these times of recession we worked harder to retain our clients. To work on the emotional side - to get them to ‘like’ us a bit more.
But we should have built more ‘trust’ rather than more love because when we see the world exactly as our clients do – we become more like them. We should have worked on how different we are. How capable we are to recommend the right thing to do because we are not them.
They want us to do things right. We want them to do the right thing.
Ultimately the danger is the work suffers because we don’t challenge as hard as we should. We avoid selling the tricky stuff.
And at Cannes the tricky stuff is usually the stuff that wins.