If you are bored with your ad agency business, then I am happy to suggest 10 ways to help you screw it up sooner than you may think it possible. This is in the interest of your clients, resources and the industry – it will kill your agency but save the rest.
You may be already practising some of these ways – you may also be practising other ways. I have not mentioned here (I have not captured all the ways; it would take volumes to do so).
The hardest part is to do this in a way that feels like a genuine effort and not just business suicide. Try these and you will have a lot of fun killing your agency.
Be a matchstick in a match box
A matchstick is a matchstick. They come in different boxes with different names, colours, shapes and sizes, but is there a matchstick brand that is truly memorable? They all solve the same problem and therefore are all the same. Make all-out efforts to position your agency as one which provides the same services any other agency in the market does. “What other agencies do, we can too” is the bestselling pitch. Make sure you position yourself on the category and not on the strength of your core services.
It is very important to look, sound and behave like a greedy agency; what better way than to show your clients you are willing to take on all their business at any cost (literally!)? It is tempting to say yes to every client interested in hiring you. It doesn’t matter if you are selecting the right client; biting off more than you can chew is an obvious growth strategy and you can deal with the repercussions later. Once you have the business, your clients will learn how to adjust their expectations.
Never, ever say no
Always be the best kid on the block and say yes to everything your client puts your way. Yes, to subjective feedback. Yes, to vague briefs. Yes, to a habit of asking for favours. Yes, to free out of scope work. Yes, to an agency test drive. Yes, to over commitments. You know what is better than saying yes? Saying “seems fine”, “we will figure out something on our own” and the best one is “you know better, we will follow and revise”.
U-turns are a hallmark of great agencies as they show the importance of flexibility in their thinking and actions. Your agency will be so liked by your clients if they are inclined to keep changing their commitments and investments; be they resources, technology, infrastructure – as the best agencies are the ones which are rigid about their work matters and processes but show flexibility when it comes to their own investment. Remember that all promises are not to be kept; they are supposed to be managed well.
Believe that all the sheep at the client end are white
Innocence in the agency business is the key to success, particularly when it comes to clients. Good clients are the ones where all their team members wish you well. They love you, refer you to their friends, will never undercut you or your business, will never promote any other agency in their company. They do not play politics behind your back – your work is so good, there is no reason for anyone on the client team to act against you. Therefore, there is no reason to keep in close and regular contact with them; you trust them more than your own people. There is no reason to waste time on them or get their feedback on your agency’s work and people. There is no reason to do an analysis and see if they are genuinely interested in building a stronger and a long-term relationship with your agency or if any of them are working on another agenda.
Let the dengue mosquito live
A single dengue mosquito can kill many healthy humans. So do not let the dengue mosquito breed in your surroundings, and if you spot one, kill it before the disease spreads. Believe that all your people are committed to the cause as much as you are. Always see them as a group and not as individuals – after all they work together so it is obvious to assume that they all thank God first and then you for the great opportunity of working at your agency. It is okay if they do not share the same core values of your agency’s culture, at least they do their job well. There is no reason for them to be negative or spread negativity as to you they look mostly happy. They are so skilled, knowledgeable and experienced that they cannot be the wrong hires for the agency. Please note I am saying for the agency and not for the job.
Play it safe
It is always good to provide only those services which you feel your agency is good at. No point investing in services you think your client may be interested in the near future as such efforts may go to waste. Follow your clients’ needs or at best move with their needs; thinking ahead and staying ahead of trends is risky and may take a chunk out of your profit margins. Stay in your comfort zone.
I am a rickshaw today, but I will be a truck some day
What matters in business is to have ambitious goals and then obviously time will have its own plans to achieve them. Setting your eyes on growth will make it happen; somehow help will come from somewhere. Just focus on the goal and a path will be created for you. Making plans to achieve your goals is a vanity exercise and also takes up a lot of thinking time, requires experience in planning and effort in implementing it. And when the plan is made, it has to be tracked every month and your agency cannot waste so much time in just tracking a growth plan. Much better to keep going every day and think you will reach your goal some day.
Can’t convince them? Fool them!
A wise approach to manage client negotiations and discussions is to dodge them with vague responses such as ‘maybe’, ‘we’ll see’, etc. There is no point in straight talk with clients, as they will not like your agency giving them straight answers or telling them that their approach to a marketing challenge is not the right one in your view. What is the point? After all, the client is king. Much better to pass the time and get over with that meeting happily and the only way to keep clients happy is to either agree with them or make them believe you agree with them, even if you don’t.
Depend on one client
If you are lucky to have one good client, then you have done it and there is no need to look for more. Just focus on this one client and hold onto them for the longest time possible. As a single client agency, you will be able to focus on this one client so much that he or she will be so happy and will never think of leaving your agency. Also, looking for more clients while you have one good client requires investment in time, resources and money. So if you have one good client that is a wonderful gift.
Asim Naqvi is Chief Executive, Ogilvy Pakistan.