Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who do you really work for?

There are two main differences between the client/agency relationships of design firms and ad agencies and that of other client/agency or client/practitioner relationships.

The first is that a good part of the output is ‘creative’ which can often be interpreted as subjective and unquantifiable (whole separate discussion to be had right there). This sets us apart from, for example, law firms, accountants, builders, management consultants and a whole range of other services that rely on clients to survive.

The second is that our clients are not our customers. In other words, they are not the end-user of whatever it is that we are working on. This creates a very different dynamic to one between, say, an interior decorator or landscape gardener and their clients. If your client is your direct customer, they are hiring you for your professional knowledge and skill but they are also paying you to create something that they personally like. Which means that you are to a large extent at the mercy of their wims. Their favourite colour is puce, they’ve always had a thing for tea roses...

Sound familiar? Frustratingly many clients for whom the consumer —and not themselves — is the end-user of their work, still behave as if they are the customer and that, as the saying goes, they should always be right.

How do we best manage this balance and keep everyone in sight of the fact we all work for the consumer when one party holds the budgets, the power of approval and ultimately the responsibility for success?

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