‘The Client’ in Digital is the same as ‘The Client’ in Traditional Advertising. Only more scared. Selling work is harder because our clients know they need digital advertising but want to get it over and done with like pulling a plaster. They hold onto budgets even tighter and hand them out like the Old Woman in The Shoe who had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
If you thought your clients in above-the-line were little bullies, in digital they’re worse. They can be thoroughbred dictators who’d prefer you to just do and not question.
When giving feedback, they start off by saying how they’re definitely not tech savvy but by the end of the meeting they gather so much momentum in their own belief that they are right, it almost seems as if they are channeling Steve Jobs himself.
We all know that words can drop from a client’s mouth like A-bombs in Nam and in digital it is just the same. These are a few of the stupid things I’ve heard clients say:
1. “I hardly use the internet. My son does though. But he’s always on the internet. The thing you’ve got to ask is why would I go to your website?”
2. “Who has time to use Skype really?”
3. “Well Skype is just about phone calls actually.”
4. “My friends only use Skype to talk to friends and family that live far away.”
5. “That idea is just too big. Our marketing department doesn’t have the resource or time for an idea like that.”
6. “We want something quick and manageable. This requires longevity.”
7. “We want something easy to implement. What about user-generated content?”
8. “We are not a content company.”
9. “You must realise, this target market is not digitally advanced.”
10. “Yes, you guys would do it…but you’re in advertising.”
11. “No…I wouldn’t drop what I was doing to chat to Ryan Gosling on the internet.”
12. “Please list ALL our terms and conditions on the banner.”
13. “The copy is too clever. I just want something straight.”
14. “I don’t want a viral video. I want a million-rand TV ad.”
15. “Can we just have some banner ads please?”
16. “Can we just have some banner ads please?”
17. “Guys between the ages of 30 and 40 are dads. They don’t have time to be online.”
18. “If this was on Mxit it would be great. I’d give it to my helper and she’d spend all day on it.”
19. “I’m having my hair done. Can she come and present to me here?”
20. “Make the logo bigger.”
I know that advertisers say stupid things too. But I also know that when I go to a doctor and he tells me that I need a blood test, I don’t tell him to rather give me a colonoscopy. It worries me that as the marketing and advertising industry grows older, we’re not growing wiser and our clients have become less and less trusting of advertising expertise.
They’re terrified of digital but instead of handing over some of the brand custodianship, they toss out the breadcrumbs and hope to get lucky. The Marketing Director has become brilliant at using the ‘sample of one’ survey – himself. ‘The Client’ always thinks their online engagement is the benchmark for the entire target market. And they still look at digital as the redheaded stepchild.
To my fellow advertisers in above-the-line, take comfort. ‘The Client’ is the same hairy beast in our neck of the woods. So what do we do? Maybe it’s time to gather our reputations as rebellious, crazy, wild advertising people with big ideas. Let’s stop being so damn well behaved in meetings. Let’s bring back the boozy advertising lunch, let’s take all ‘The Clients’ out to lunch and tell them we’ve all had about enough of ‘The Client’.
We would rather have partners. We would rather have good fellow parents who are ready for the fears, the joys, the difficulties and triumphs in raising a brand. We would rather make meaningful, memorable work than banner ads. If there was ever a time to respect the big ideas, it would be now.