What Clients Want

25th January 2016

Another day, another brief but what do you do with it? Far too often agencies take that brief and agree with it without any real consideration. They don’t take the time to simply think about it, or really understand the sector or business problem that is being presented. If as an industry we did, we’d ask a lot more poignant questions. Is it really a “BIG STUNT” you need to deliver on the business objectives, something “VIRAL”, a celebrity, or a pop-up…?

There are far too many agencies out there that say “Yes Sir, Yes Ma’am…” and perpetuate the creation of campaigns that don’t support the business objective, but instead the fascination with awards and the next great stunt. These campaigns will only really be hailed as a great success by those within the industry. Not only that, but they simply don’t connect with the people they are trying to reach or generate any long lasting improvement in reputation, consideration, awareness or any of the standard marketing metrics.


Some of the best feedback we’ve been given is when we didn’t win the pitch. We’ve been told we are “Too creative”, “You believe in your ideas too much” and even, “You have far too much energy and enthusiasm. You’re exhausting”. We’re proud of this as these are all things we want to be.

Just examples of why chemistry is so important to a relationship and if you don’t have it, it isn’t going to work.

Then there is our favourite feedback of all… “We wished we’d briefed you earlier as that would have been our ad campaign.” As an industry, we’re more than capable of creating the overarching idea that other disciples feed into, but why does this happen so infrequently?

In the PR world, against all rational assumptions, we have been terrible at communicating what we do with confidence. From a UK perspective, you could argue that this is a symptom of being British, and that we are far too humble to blow our own trumpets. However, other industries such as advertising, do a great job at showcasing their work, illustrating the ROI (even if it isn’t really trackable by popular metrics), and delivering a confident summary on why they believe their work or approach is right. Without going down the rabbit hole of evaluation, sometimes we need to simply look at something and use our gut and experience to say if something is successful or not. And in most cases, is it good?

What’s been our problem?

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As an industry, why can’t we be braver and less generic? There are certainly a new wave of agencies that do believe in themselves, which is great to see. This breath of fresh air has caused a storm and many have grown exponentially in recent years, showing that sticking to your guns is beneficial in the long-term, not only for your client, but also your own PnL.

So what do clients want? Well in our case it is what we want also.

Clients want an opinion, to hear what we think, to see genuine thinking, new approaches and to be challenged. After all, we think that questions are fundamentally important, as questions lead to answers. Rather than their agency chasing the next award, or the generic numbers required by the set coverage KPIs, for the campaign to be seen as a success. We’ve turned down briefs where we didn’t think we were on the same page as the client, or they simply wanted execution vs applied thinking as that isn’t us. Lets ask more questions, rip up the rulebook, start being brave and most importantly, confident in what we do.

These are the things that lead to progress, rather than doing the same things over and over, and expecting different results.

Dan Neale – Co-founder, Alfred

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