AB Thinks  →  20th February 2017

Putting the client first

AB Thinks

A new report in Campaign, From Mad Men to Sad Men, says the advertising agency/client relationship is in crisis. Clients say creatives don’t understand their business priorities and financials. Agencies say clients no longer value their creativity and innovation.

Is this a growing problem affecting the IC client/agency relationship too? How can we better understand each other?

At AB we don’t have a magic wand to wave or want to teach granny to suck eggs, but there are some fundamental things we can all do to nurture those vital client relationships – they are our lifeblood.

Really understand what your role is. You are there to provide a professional service, to advise, to guide, to be creative, innovative, daring, clear thinking. You always deliver the job in hand, of course, but also take the initiative to talk about issues and challenges they face and explore ways of helping them.

Be their business partner. Want to do the very best for them. Add value.

Put yourselves in your client’s shoes and think about a day in their life – the meetings, conference calls, fire fighting, crisis management, planning, business as usual, changes of direction or senior management, hundreds of emails, team members off sick etc. That’s on top of the awful commute or childcare issues. And sometimes, they take all that out on you.

They are only human after all. Take it on the chin.

Get to grips with their priorities, the strategy, the business plan. Look at the company’s website news pages often, read what the papers are saying about them, track their share price, follow them on Twitter, Linked-In and Facebook. Know who their competitors are, what threats they face.

Be informed about their business.

As with any relationship, spending quality time together makes a huge difference. Be a pal. Be a solid, reliable, trustworthy member of their team. Show you have their interests at heart. Be supportive. Be empathic. Be kind.


With pressure on diaries and geographical constraints it‰’s not easy but schedule regular face to face meetings, at times that fit the client best – early morning coffee, an after work drink. Get in the habit of doing it. Spend some time each week in their office, close to them. Soak up the environment, what’s being discussed, what the pressures are.

Be present in their world.

It takes constant work to nurture a client relationship, at times that’s going to feel one way but stick with it. Without the clients, we don’t exist.