By Holly Buchanan

You’ve spent a lot of time writing and/or producing a commercial for a client. It’s your best effort. You feel like it’s really going to work for them. You send it off with the sales rep for approval. The next day you hear back. The client didn’t like it. They want all sorts of changes. So you make the changes and send off your second best effort, only to have it come back once again. On your 4th best effort, the client approves the commercial. One problem, the commercial is 4 times less likely to be successful.

When advertising fails, whose fault is it? The Creative Department? The Account Exec? The client? While everyone needs to be held accountable, in many cases, the cause for failure lies with the client. Sound harsh? Here’s something to look at.

When it comes to advertising, the client has total control. They have the final say on how much money will be spent and how it will be spent. They have final approval over all creative and can and DO make many changes. After all, it’s THEIR business. They know it better than anyone.

Many a marketing professional has proclaimed in frustration, “Yes, YOU’RE the expert on your business, but I’M the expert on marketing. I wouldn’t tell you how to run your business. Why are you telling me how to do my job?”

You know why? Business owners have all had bad experiences with someone who sold them something that they said would work, but didn’t. Almost every salesperson I know has at one time or another sold something to a client they didn’t feel good about. Times are tough. Management is pressuring people to do “whatever it takes” to get business on the books.

The result? Business owners don’t trust advertising people. They don’t trust their advice. They don’t take it.

So what do you do?

Get the client more involved in the front end and less involved in the back end. What does that mean?

Include the client as much as possible in the information gathering or “uncovery” process. Spend a lot of time with them discussing their business, their customers, their competition, their hopes and dreams. Ask them to tell you stories about how they’ve helped their customers. Include them in a brainstorming session. Make them feel like they are a part of the process.

Once you’ve done all that, you should be able to come up with a sound strategy. Get the client to agree to the strategy—the message you want to deliver (more on this in part II).

On the back end, creative approval and ad placement, ask the client to let you, the professionals, do your job. If you have a sound strategy, and the client has already signed off on it, you should have less of a battle on the creative. Tell the client that every change they make could dilute the effectiveness of the campaign. “This is our best effort. Here’s why we did it this way. By making the changes you’ve asked for, we feel the spot will be less effective.”

The quickest way to create trust between a client and advertiser is with a successful campaign. Include the client in the information gathering process. Find ways to justify your best work. Then you can argue over who takes the credit, instead of who takes the blame.


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