Part 4/4: How to be a Great Client

July 26, 2019

Evan Pitchie

Part 4/4 of the commentary on David Ogilvy’s book, Confessions of an Advertising Man.

Part 1: How to Manage an Ad Agency
Part 2: How to Attract New Clients
Part 3: How to Keep Clients

In the 4th and final installment we take the position of the client and explore Ogilvy’s thoughts on how clients should treat and work with their agency to get consistently great work. He does so by listing 15 rules he would set for himself if he was a client (and what he recommends clients do as well).

  1. Eliminate fear
    Scared people don’t produce great work. If the agency is always fearful of getting fired, they won’t be inclined to take risks and you will get work that is safe and looks like everything else.

    If you’re not happy with something, bring forward the issue. Threatening to fire the agency, won’t necessarily yield better results. The idea of permanency is key.
  2. Pick the right agency
    As the client, it is your duty to identify the right agency for your company and the mandate. This includes having a good understanding of their past work experience, their expertise, and your feelings towards the people from the agency (in other words, do you like them and can you work with them).
  3. Inform your agency
    Give as much information as you can to your agency, after all, they are working with you to get your product or service in front of your target audience. Show them every step of your process and why things are done that way. If the agency has to dig for the information you already possess, they lose valuable time on your account.
  4. Don’t compete with your own agency
    Make it clear what the role of the agency is in the engagement, what the desired outcome is, and trust that they will deliver great work.
  5. “Coddle the goose who lays your golden eggs”
    In this context, Ogilvy talks about creating a campaign for an entirely new product. Considering that the market has never heard or experienced the product before, it takes a great amount of skill to create a campaign that sells. For this reason, he advises not to spend so much money on developing the product that there is little left for advertising. If the campaign isn’t done properly, no one will know or care about the product.
  6. Too many layers are not good
    If the work needs to be approved by too many layers, it limits the agency’s desire and ability to be creative. The more people involved in the approval, the more people need to be pleased which is likely to lead to producing work on the safe side.
  7. Agency must make a profit
    If the agency is not making a profit (or receiving significant perceived value in exchange for their work), they will not have their best people on the job and that can reduce the quality of the work that is delivered.

    Of course, it could be argued that if the agency delivers results for the client, then both parties make a profit. That is not what is discussed in this part. Ogilvy is talking about a situation where the work is great but the agency is not making money on the account.
  8. Don’t bargain with your agency
    If you bargain for a lower fee with your agency or want to skip certain steps, it is likely to hurt you in the long-run. Receiving less money for a job that requires more demotivates people and does not incentivize them to deliver their best. In addition, skipping the research step (for example) forces the agency to deliver work without having all the facts which put both parties at risk of failure.
  9. Be honest and encourage honesty
    If there is a problem speak up and make the agency comfortable to share their discomforts with you as well. Don’t make the agency guess what the problem is as it will only waste time and limit their ability to solve it.

    In addition to that, do not evoke fear (again) as it paralyzes people and hinders creativity.
  10. Set high standards
    Make your expectations clear and encourage your agency to produce their best work. Simple as that.
  11. Test everything
    How do you know something will work or not work — test it. The more you test, the more data you collect and that can be used in perpetuity. As a result, your ads will get better and better.
  12. Hurry
    In this part, Ogilvy talks about switching from a yearly view to a monthly view. In today’s world, we operate on a daily and sometimes even hourly view.

    Time is more valuable than money.
  13. Don’t waste time on “problem babies”
    Many people spend too much time worrying about how to revive a dying product than on how to make a successful product even more successful. Cut your losses and move forward with what works.
  14. Tolerate genius
    Talented people can often be different from the norm and cause you to feel uncomfortable. Learn to manage it as they are the ones that lay “golden eggs”.
  15. Don’t under-spend
    Spend what you need to spend to get the job done right. It will do more harm than good to spend less than is necessary for a mediocre result that could cost you your entire business.

This concludes our 4-part series on Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy.

I highly advise anyone interested in the marketing field to read this book because of its rich real-world examples and explanations on how to succeed in the advertising industry.

At this current point in time, we are not affiliated with Ogilvy in any way. For this reason, we receive no commission if you purchase the book.

So, because we really think the book is great, you can purchase the book here on Amazon.