I penned a letter to Campaign last week and to my surprise it got printed. I thought I might as well put it here too, as at the very least it'll mean I've put something on my blog for the first time in ages...
I think they might have amended it slightly, but this is the version I sent them:
I noticed a theme between two articles in your November 11th edition. On page 18 Jonathan Fowles wondered whether most agencies understood what Comms Planning is when they sell it to clients, and on page 24 Richard Alford shared his recent experiences of agencies selling 'vacuous, cod-philosophical' manifestos and mantras to clients.
I've had experience of agencies doing both of the above during my career thus far and they're both self-serving, short-term and ultimately do more to widen the agency/ client relationship in the longer term.
The two items above are exemplified by two of my pet hates:
1) Selling complexity instead of simplicity.
The agency role is generally a simple requirement: sell more stuff; find more people to sell stuff to; make my brand look good to certain people etc. Yet as an industry some seem intent on overcomplicating this simple equation for their own short-term gain. I have had first hand experience of this in the past and something a friend was told by a superior springs to mind: "Use big words and drop in the odd word which confuses the client. It makes us look good." This was an internationally networked agency with global clients.
We must never forget our role as agencies is to simplify our client’s business challenges and provide them a communications strategy which answers those business challenges.
Simplicity from complexity. Not vice versa.
2) Jumping on the bandwagon.
Whether it's a new media channel, a new technology or new terminology it seems there's no shame in jumping in there as quick as possible and getting it on the agency creds with no-one questioning the relevancy to consumer or its consistency to other communications.
Andrew Cracknell nailed this last week at the Yahoo! Provoke Summit when he stated: "There is a fixation of doing what can be done instead of doing what should be done."
Asking WHY before asking HOW is essential.
These aren't solely the issues of agencies however, and clients have to take some responsibility for the situation. Some clients like to pass the confusion onto their superiors to confuse them into the belief of progression, and clients too want the new shiny thing on their CV even if there’s no real business reason for it.
Only by simplifying (and not complicating) and by asking why (before how) will we reach a point where longer-term relationships are forged with clients which ultimately add real value to all involved and deliver engaging and relevant communications to consumers. That’s the aim of all of us here at nexus|h and it’s something I’m personally passionate about.