3 reasons why ‘no’ is the word you definitely want to hear from your creative agency

The relationship between a creative agency and a client can be a delicate balancing act, especially if the client is one who believes in the adage ‘the customer is always right’.

The problem is clients aren’t always right and any agency who thinks they are, is actually doing them a disservice.

We were reminded of this when we came across this ad from Young & Rubicam, one of the largest advertising companies in the world. Dating back to 1965, its message is as relevant today as it was then, if not more so.

Great campaigns need creative agencies with a backbone and that means they need to be willing to say ‘no’. Don’t believe us? Read on to find out why.

  1. It shows they know what they are talking about

We all have things we can do, and we all have things we can’t, but let’s face it, most of us are guilty, at some time or another, of thinking we are better at something than we actually are. And clients are no different.

Yes, they are at the coalface of their brand and probably have an idea of what they want to achieve with their latest campaign (although not always!), but when it actually comes to the creative, it’s often better left to the experts.

That’s not to say clients can’t have an input, far from it. For example, our marketing and brand workshops are very much a collaborative experience, which sees agency and client working together to really get to the crux of what needs to be achieved, but the point is an agency needs to be brave enough to say ‘no’ if that is what is needed.

A good creative agency shouldn’t just churn out what the client wants or thinks they want; it should also have a handle on what’s going on in the sector and marketplace; it should know whether there are any social causes a brand or company should support (or avoid); and it should have a clear understanding of what messaging and creative would resonate best with the identified target audience.

Take Pepsi’s ‘Live for Now’ ad, which was pulled in less than 24 hours of its premiere. Did no-one seriously think it would possibly cause offence? Or what about E.ON Next, who thought sending out socks to households facing massive hikes in their energy bills was a really good idea.

If you’re looking for success rather than a backlash, then the last thing you need is a ‘yes’ agency.

  1. It shows they value you as a client

An easy yes, is just that, easy. We all know that sometimes in life it is easier to agree rather than getting into a debate, but when you’re in discussions with your creative agency, the last thing you want is too many yeses.

You want an agency who challenges you and your brand. You want them to bring a fresh perspective to the table, rather than simply regurgitating what’s gone before. And above all, you want them to be as excited and fired up about your brand as you are, as only then will you get the results you deserve.

An agency who agrees with you at every turn could be a sign of an agency who can’t really be bothered to put the time and energy in or is unwilling to challenge the status quo as it takes up too much effort.

We’re not saying the status quo always needs to be challenged, but your agency does need to be asking questions to confirm that’s the best option for you.

As a client you should always get the best creative possible, and inevitably that takes time. An agency who just agrees with everything you suggest might be just paying lip-service possibly because they’ve got better, potentially more lucrative clients they want to focus on.

  1. It shows they respect you

Saying no is never easy, but if a client is asking for the impossible, whether that’s an unrealistic deadline or a wealth of ideas that just won’t achieve the goals of a campaign, then it needs to be said.

The bottom line is while a good agency should always have a client’s needs at the forefront of everything they do, they should also be able to recognise when a client is wrong and be able to tell them!

Of course, the quality of the no is what really counts. It’s not enough just to say ‘no’, there needs to be a valid reason behind it which ties in with the client’s needs and expectations and in many cases a reasonable alternative should be offered.

And that brings us to the sticky issue of budget. If an agency really respects and values you as a client, they will be aiming to spend your money as efficiently and effectively as possible and not simply loking to milk you dry. Recently, there seems to be trend of clients not wanting to specify their budget for a particular campaign, maybe because they fear being taken for a ride, but any good agency knows a budget isn’t a target to reach, but rather a framework to hang work off.

And if a creative agency really respects you then they will always say no to any ideas which won’t help you reach your primary objectives, even if it would be better for their bottom line to say yes.

MBC – an agency who is willing to say no

We’ve always believed agencies and clients are equal partners in producing work as that’s the best way to deliver outstanding creative. And yes, that means we do say an honest ‘no’ to clients when we need to.

If you think a few honest ‘nos’ could help your company or brand, get in touch to find out how we can help.