AI Inspired Storytelling

By Raymond Smith

Be Passionate About Your Clients

This is installment 5 in my series of things I’ve learned – and would love to share – in my 25 years in advertising. This one can be tricky to navigate, and I’ll explain why.

 It’s about being passionate about your client (or clients’) brand. And yes, while you’re working on their business, you definitely should be. Think about it this way: while you might work on three or four brand accounts at your agency, your client works on one. Day in, day out, all year long – that’s their focus. And they may have been focusing on it for five, ten or twenty-five years already. It means a lot to them emotionally, but also materially. The success of their brand affects their ability to feed their kids and pay their mortgage. In other words, understand its importance to them and act accordingly.

This means that you should do what you can to support it – by understanding it, knowing its challenges, grasping the market environment it operates in, knowing who its competitors are, and more. Immerse yourself in it. Learn the language. Know what you’re talking about when you speak about it in meetings as well as in the ads you produce.

In real world terms, it might also mean supporting their brand with your wallet. So, if you’re working on Dairy Queen, make sure you eat there…even if you didn’t before. If you’re working on Nike, guess what’s now on your feet. Working on M&M Meat Shop – guess where you’re buying your frozen chicken wings now. This is important because now you’re not just their advertiser, you’re their consumer. You’re seeing their business from both sides. You’re getting the real customer experience, and you’re also getting their emails and their coupons and all the other stuff that you might, yourself, be producing for them. All of this will make you a better advertiser and a more informed business partner.

Now, here’s where it can get tricky: what if you work on a car brand? Do you have to sell your three year-old car, perhaps at a loss, so you can buy your client’s brand? If you work on a bank brand, are you expected to shift your mortgage and your chequing account from BMO to TD? If you now work on Rogers, do you sever all your existing services at Bell and move them?

The answer is ‘it depends’. If you need a new mobile phone, sure, maybe switch to your client. If your old car dies and you need a new one, obviously you should take a good, long look at your client brand. If there’s a natural opportunity to support their brand, it’s a very generous gesture and it will definitely be appreciated by your client.

But if you’re just starting out, no reasonable client expects you to disentangle yourself and move all your banking, or put yourself in debt to buy their car when you’re keeping a wary eye on your rent payments. It’s rare the client who will put you on the spot and say ‘So, what do you drive?’ or ‘Hey, do you even bank with us?’… but it happens.

The best way to manage that is to make sure your clients feel the love in other ways. Your passion and support for their brand can come through your interest, engagement, understanding and by doing your best work on their behalf.