Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Dear client, you are fired!

Published Apr 11, 2017 09:04am
An exasperated adman on the classic symptoms of a nightmare client.

Dear Brand Manager,

This is difficult to express in person, so I thought it would be best if I just sent you a link to this blog and let it explain the rest.

I'll get straight to the point. The jig is up. I'm afraid we can't keep doing this any longer. We are officially breaking up with you.

There. I said it. Now that this is out of the way, I think it would be best if we both unwind this mess a little. I'm sure you have been feeling that this day was coming. Let's not kid ourselves, the signs were aplenty.

It feels only yesterday when we first met. That wonderful pitch. The energy. The tension, the friction, the chemistry. There was something about your brand that challenged our deepest insights. We needed you, bad. And we were prepared to do whatever it took to catch your eye and capture your attention to win your account.

When you finally did pick us, from that long list of suitors that lined up before the door to your meeting room to pledge their massive agency networks to do your bidding, we were truly on cloud nine. Oh how I miss that high. I gotta admit it, those first few quarters really were amazing.

However, as our relationship matured, we began to look past your glossy facade and discover the flaws. Like any self-respecting agency we tried to look past them, and convince ourselves that the right kind of "client servicing" can fix this. Boy, were we wrong! For the benefit of the next agency you pick, I'm going to give you a piece of my mind. You have all the symptoms of the classical nightmare client:

The Bhaari-ness

Unfortunately, there is no real translation for this outside of agency lingo, let alone the English language. You are just a bhaari person and a bhaari client. Bhaari people are self-aggrandizing egotistic maniacs who actively seek to undermine everybody they are exposed to, often using their position of influence to put people 'in their place'.

Paper trail paranoia

For every 10 emails we sent you, we received one in response… and it had two syllables. We are a professional services’ provider, not the paros ka paan waala. In our book, verbal briefs are a red flag. If you can't spare the time to write a few sentences and send it over officially, we are pretty sure you are not invested in the project.

The ‘Sit-Next-ing’

Everyone has these particular kinds of clients who come to visit and don’t go back. Don’t get me wrong here. We would love to host you over a cup of coffee (or whatever your vice is) in our little meeting room, because that is what we made it for. But coming in and demanding to sit with the creative team, playing out your fantasies of being an art director? That is just not going to fly. Sorry, I don’t care how much you are paying us. There is no way we can endure you that close for that long.

The ‘Internal Creative Departmenters’

On the other end of the spectrum are these smug know-it-alls who always have that internal creative department ready to wreak havoc on whatever you have created. We really don’t see the point of your hiring an agency AND maintaining a so-called creative department at your end. To what effect? To make your logo bigger, to add more of the boss’ favourite colour to the visual? This should just be called cheating, period.

The taunts

Every good relationship is based on honest, open communication. But when you go about on your tirade of taunts, it really does make our blood boil. Standard stuff like, “Looks like you are too busy with your bigger clients.” We are never uncouth enough to say it to your face, but you probably felt our displeasure in our razor-sharp super subtle sarcastic responses. Or maybe that was lost on you. Probably the latter.

Blame it on the seth

This is by far the most pervasive of nightmare client qualities, especially in our local mediascape. The Seth, the Boss, the Chairman, the CEO… sometime I feel these are all titles made specifically to strong-arm agencies into doing stuff they don’t want to. The worst part is, the Seth is made to be the bogeyman. I suspect he never sees the creative, let alone comment about how a drop shadow would really bring out the text. Hopefully, the head of a company has better things to do. Not sure about you though.

So, dear client... I’m afraid it’s over. It’s not us, it’s you. While your brand has massive potential, you are a nightmare, a train-wreck, a walking migraine. Your sycophant team is as difficult to work with as you are (surprise surprise!). And at the end of the day, it’s just not worth it. We are sorry for dragging this along so far and so long. We realise now that this was never meant to be.

As for your money, you can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

Umair Kazi is Partner at Ishtehari. umair@ishtehari.com