Sunday, November 15, 2009

Clients want agencies to keep a sharp pencil on fees - so what's new?

A recent Ad Age story covered the "news" about agencies have been under pressure to deliver a sharper pencil on fees. We all know that clients don’t want to leave money on the table. Has someone been sleeping? The eighties - that crazy time when some of the big brands spent lavishly and the big suits in the ad business like Phil Dusenbury bragged about having unlimited budgets - are far behind us. Clients have been squeazing agencies for some time now. In fact, next to "make the logo bigger," isn't the next thing the client says, "do it cheaper?" In the world of small agencies in smaller markets or vertical specialty industries, this has been a reality for quite a long time.

Two sides to this argument, of course:

On one hand, clients are expecting agencies to apply some of their creativity to the process of delivering the work at a lower cost, so they can lower their cost of doing business. Seems perfectly reasonable, especially these days when technology gives us all many ways to do things more efficiently.

On the other hand, I do believe that clients who treat agencies and their unique creative product like vendors who sell commodity items like floor wax and file folders are being unreasonable. If a client is convinced that a particular creative approach or strategic plan is right for them, and will increase their sales, they should be willing to pay a premium for it.

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