Scary story 4
Six months of Mars-Venus relationships for want of three Southwest tickets
An old friend tells me that her agency has had a client for six months and has never met anyone from the day-to-day team face to face.
The client expects to do about $800,000 a year in creative business, and place more than $10 million on banners through Christmas. The account is very low margin for the agency owing to a tough round with procurement, but it keeps a bunch of designers and planners working and gives the shop a modicum of prestige.
My friend is convinced that the work could be much stronger if the agency team felt more ownership and had a better understanding of the business:
Our people would be more energized and do better work if they actually knew the people they present to on conference calls. Issues and problems arise because the people on both sides are disembodied voices to one another.
This client refuses to pay for three airline tickets to send the account person, the creative director, and the lead designer to the home office. They feel it is an unnecessary expense.
The agency and client towns are served by Southwest. I just checked, and the supersaver fare is $59.
I pointed this out to my friend and asked, "Why doesn't the agency just pay?" The response:
Well, the contract indicates that the client pays for travel. So you may find it penny wise and pound foolish for the agency not to spring for the tickets. But there is a principle at stake. And when you start making exceptions to procurement-driven contracts, the slope gets awfully slick awfully fast.
Hmm. Would a site visit improve the work? It certainly seems worth three $59 tickets plus cab fare to find out.
Lesson for clients: Find a way to get face to face with the agency, especially at the outset of a relationship. It doesn't cost very much relative to the amount you are probably spending through the agency, and I promise you it will mean better work.
Lesson for agencies: See lesson for clients. And if the terms of a contract are so onerous that you can't afford a couple of Southwest tickets, don't take the contract.