A prospective client recently asked us to explain, “How you can work with a conservative organisation like us”. It was a clever and perceptive question.
Finding new clients has always been difficult for a business that gets up everyday with the intention of changing the world and only looks for like-minded people to work with.
WMH works with an incredibly broad range of clients. We don’t work in one single market, for a particular sector with a specific size of budget. It is a wide spread of relationships that includes entrepreneurs, major brand owners, financial corporations and charities. What binds these together is that they are people and businesses that see the value of game changing creativity.
Working with entrepreneurs has the great advantage that you work closely with the person who lives and breathes the idea and makes every single decision to get that idea out there. There are no ‘design by committee’ issues – it’s generally a quick decision making process and no need for stakeholder management. Their energy is infectious and the whole agency team becomes their advocates.
With entrepreneurs it is personal and here lies a potential downside. Creative ideas are reviewed on the basis of “I like it or I don’t”, rather than rationally looking at what a market needs and judging if the creative idea taps into this effectively.
Global brand owners such as Unilever, P&G or Coca Cola may, sometimes, look at things too rationally. The racehorse that went into focus groups, often comes out as a camel (not that there is anything wrong with camels, unless you want to win the Derby). Yet the bigger corporations also have their internal entrepreneurs. At WMH we describe these, using Adam Morgan’s terminology, as ‘kickers and denters’. They are sometimes harder to find and you need an in depth knowledge of the organisation to spot them, but this type of marketer is not afraid to stick their neck out. The upshot of this is that when great ideas do get through to the market they are often of a magnitude that completely dwarfs most start-ups.
Retailers move significantly faster than FMCG owners. They don’t work only work on annual targets, or even quarterly, they’re driven by daily sales figures. They’re nimble and have the flexibility to adjust their offer quickly. Zara’s speed is legendary. They can copy a catwalk piece and have it in all their European stores within two weeks. For agencies, this brings the great advantage that retailers are able to trial something quickly in a store. “Throw it to our customers in Milton Keyes and see if it sticks”, is the mentality. Research is done in the real world, not in focus groups. The downside is that retailers can sometimes be fickle in seeing an idea through.
You might think that an agency’s most difficult task is to think of brilliant ideas. That’s the ‘easy’ bit. The difficult bit is finding the right client and understanding the way their business works and how to get good stuff though to fruition. When it works, from whatever client type, it makes all the hassle worthwhile. We get a buzz when a Dixon’s Knowhow vehicle goes by, when we see someone post a new strapline for Sainsbury’s Basics on Facebook or when we see a Barclays logo on a Boris Bike.
The truth is, most clients are conservative and risk averse. It’s when they are excitement averse we worry.