Last night’s IPA Modern Briefing (2: The Clients Talk Back) conference was an exceptionally insightful follow up to this summer’s game changing talk on the agency briefing process. There were about 500 things you could've learnt last night but five of them stood out for me in particular.
They stood out for me because they can and (hopefully) will immediately affect how I try to work with my clients.
1. Be a Head Chef not a Waiter – from Ben Malbon (Google Creative Lab) @Malbonnington
In what I think is a beautifully articulated piece of advice, Ben Malbon urged planners not to behave like waiters (merely taking orders and customer service) but to bring the knowledge, passion and particularly the conviction to argue that a Head Chef holds. It struck me that whilst we might not always think our clients want us to argue with them, that might be down to us. That is to say they certainly don’t want to argue with the waiter but they might have a word with the Chef.
2. Briefing from the inside – from Jeff Dodds (Virgin Media) @JeffDodds
Whilst talking about Virgin Media’s exceptionally tight working relationship with BBH I’m sure I could feel the entire room bristle with envy. Detailing his briefing process, Jeff explained that BBH’s strategy director sits in his internal commercial strategy meetings leading to a situation where client briefs are either written together or ‘taken on the fly’. I think every person in that room wants to get to the heart of their client’s business like that. Perhaps no tangible lesson here other than it is possible and we should all work harder to get there.
3. You can’t always distil 100,000 words into 1 – also from Jeff Dodds
Something we can implement now though would be to treat our client’s problems with the respect they deserve rather than forcing them into a standardised briefing template (at least not in front of them anyway…). A brief should be as long or short as it needs to be.
4. Time – from Jeremy Taylor (O2)
If you can get to the inner sanctum of your clients business then you can plan ahead for issues they don’t have time to think about yet. That in turn gives you more time to solve problems. Although we might not all be in that inner sancutm, to some degree you can do this from outside and it might just get you in.
5. Trending used to mean how are you doing at the end of 52 weeks trading? – from Greg Nugent (LOCOG) @nugentgreg
A powerful reminder to speak to clients about their actual needs (sales) and not your solutions. Reminiscing about his time working on Weetabix Greg spat out, ‘tell me how we are going to sell 5% more palettes not how you’re going to change the way we use communications platforms’. For agencies the work might come first, for clients it’s sales. Always ground your strategy / presentation / chat in the reception on your clients sales.
The overarching piece of advice permeating through everything last night was basically - get as close to your client as you possibly can. Although perhaps not a revelatory piece of information, the importance of it was driven home acutely.
Ps. Carry on the conversation at #IPAmb