We’ve all sat helplessly as our taxicab wades glacially through heavy traffic — one eye on the meter. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of paying good money to go nowhere. This is the main reason why there are so insufferably many ad account reviews these days. Clients need results now — this week (retailers), this quarter (publicly traded companies) or even today (Cellular phone companies). They feel like we do in that cab. Many of them cannot afford to wait out a quarter or two. It’s not just the clients’ jobs on the line, it’s their CEO’s. as well. We’re truly living in a “Win now, or go home” world. That’s the reality. You produce results now or you’re toast — and sometimes, you’re toast either way.
Client job turnover is often directly correlative to client/agency turnover. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a new CMO will probably look for a new agency. I’ve read that the average CMO job tenure hovers at around 20 months. As Don Corleone said, “this is the life we have chosen”. It just moves a whole LOT faster now. It’s funny that some pitch consultants complain about this doom loop, exaggerating market conditions along the way. I find it ironic since their niche exists primarily on the pretext of volatility.
I think it’s a good thing. Darwinism. Performance-based agency compensation. Incentive-based employee compensation. All this will make our industry hungrier and better. We will earn what we’re worth. This is the foundation of Capitalism (which may be just as fractured as the ad industry these days). But the agencies that whine about it usually lose the business and the ones who embrace it, win it.
Accounts move away quickly for a multitude of other reasons. Among them:
- the agency is not providing the thought leadership they promised as “specialists” in their industry
- the agency swooped in with a crackerjack pitch team that the client hardly saw ever again… until compensation time
- the agency is so busy pitching/soliciting new business that they neglect the client
- employee turnover at the agency (formerly the biggest reason of all)
- mediocre creative work
- lack of a service mentality at the agency — just plain bad customer service (it starts at the switchboard)
- CMO turnover (duh)
- unforeseen business turnover (banks & hospitals get bought, merge, etc.)
- sluggish sales (not always the agency’s fault, but almost always the agency’s blame)
- the client simply falls out of love, someone prettier comes along who is doing sexier work — you lose the beauty contest
- the pigs at corporate suck up all the marketing dollars for their bonuses — cut marketing budgets
- a new business professional at another agency steals the account by building a meaningful business relationship and seizes the moment (that moment you dropped the ball on a key deliverable)
- change for change’s sake
It’s also ironic that so many agencies chest-beat about how they are “change agents”, but they find it difficult to understand when their own clients’ brands need a change, a fresh perspective, new eyes and ears. And, above all, a new voice.
This is advertising. There’s no crying in advertising. There are only two guarantees:
1. Accounts come and go.
2. People come and go.