The Agency Recommendation


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This subject could just as easily be discussed by any of our departments. But it’s particularly in the area of creative that clients often ask for ‘The Agency Recommendation.’

And it’s a potential gotcha.

Here’s the picture: Based on the premise that there’s no single ‘right’ answer to any communications challenge, the agency presents a range of concepts. Typically three. (Don’t ask me why.)

Typically also, the three approaches are quite varied, but each is meticulously ‘on’ strategy. Each has it own merits, each has its own look and feel, voice and tone. (Again, within the envelope of the creative strategy.)

So which one is best for the client?

Well, don’t ask the agency. We should feel equally positive, just as committed, to any of the three, or it shouldn’t be in the presentation. The right answer is the one the client embraces. The one she feels best captures and represents her brand.

So why is the issue a ‘gotcha’?

Because the odds of the agency’s recommendation being the same campaign as the one the client kinda prefers is 1 in 10.

That’s right. 90% of the time, the client ends up thinking that they and the agency aren’t quite in sync, despite the fact that the presentation has gone swimmingly well up until that point, and there’s a concept on the table that the client really likes.

What’s behind this agency recommendation chestnut anyway?

It seems to have its origins back in the ‘Mad Men’ days when bourbon drinking Don Drapers went for the theatricality of the gamble, the challenge, the macho ‘check-out-my-gonads’ gesture of ‘telling’ the client what he should do. And the clients would seek to match nuts by going along with the gambit: ‘I like your style, Draper; you’re my kind of ad. guy. I’m going to double my budget and fly you and your lovely wife to my Nassau beach house right after we’ve sealed the deal with some more bourbon…’?

We live in a more accountable, less confrontational world of agency/client partnerships today. But if it comes up, how should we respond to the recommendation question?

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