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The New Client

  • October 9, 2000, 12:00 AM EDT
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We've all heard industry pundits talk about how the face of business is changing. Some call it the "new economy." Regardless of its name, make no mistake, it has produced a new kind of client. Today, the demand for speed, accuracy and instant gratification is paramount, posing challenges and opportunities for the advertising-agency partner.

For example, one area visibly affected is marketing staffs. Many new companies are staffed with fewer senior managers and even fewer marketing managers. Consequently, the new client is more apt to rely heavily on gut instinct. And that gut instinct is apt to change tomorrow.

On the positive side, there are a lot of characteristics that set new clients apart. They tend to have fewer preconceived notions. They're more action-oriented and less bureaucratic. And they're structured differently.

As a result—and this is an important opportunity—the new client actually offers agencies the chance to regain their coveted status as not just a marketing partner, but as a mentor.

To illustrate, consider this year's "Salz Survey of Advertiser-Agency Relations." Agencies reported more tension in their relationships with new clients (defined as dot-coms). But they also reported more teamwork and a greater sense that they are providing strategic direction.

That is not surprising, because, more than ever, the new client needs the brand-building expertise and insights that agencies offer. If you don't believe me, just ask the failed venture capitalists who developed and approved some of the less-than-successful spots that aired during Super Bowl XXXIV. They needed marketing mentors, but they chose to follow their gut instinct instead.

The new economy is also having an impact on the process of creating ads for these new clients.

While strategy continues to be important, development can no longer take six months. Quite simply, it's not about less insight; it's about taking less time. Campaigns are now being produced in weeks—even days.

And this approach to business is not just limited to today's new clients. It's also being adopted by older clients as well, making it even more important that we understand how to work with today's new-client realities.

In sum, today's new clients offer agencies the chance to be more of a marketing mentor than ever before. To take on this responsibility, agencies need to deliver work faster and better than ever. We can't fall into the all-too-easy trap of trying to be different for difference's sake or of creating pointless messages.

We need to do a better job of creating outstanding work that helps brand these new clients and their products. And we must avoid creating work that just tries to be in the customer's face.

Finally, I think we need to change the way we work—to be more flexible—and to be able to customize our processes and practices to the specific needs of these new clients.

Mark Twain said, "I'm all for progress. It's change I don't like."

The fact is, in today's new economy, change for the most part is not only good, it's necessary.