Blow Up Your Agency in 5 Easy Pieces

Don’t fiddle while Rome burns…

Talk is cheap, as Keith Richards taught us. It’s time to stop analyzing this. Analysis is paralysis. It’s time to act. You love the smell of napalm in the morning? So, let’s make some:

  1. Fire that Abusive, Adulterous Client — You know who they are. Everyone has one. They think they own you. You let them. They will kill you with a toothpick. Whack them first. It will be better for morale in the long run. You may have to lay off some enablers, but sometimes it’s good to cut out the dead wood. This client threatens you. They run you through flaming hoops. They seek creative sex on the side.  Do you really want their money? Who’s the whore — them or you? Make it them. Marry Madonna, not the whore.
  2. Turn the Firing Into a Press Release — Crispin has done this well. They fire the client citing “Creative Differences” and take the story to the Trade Press. They make it clear that they have experience in the category and they are now actively seeking a new partner that would like to exploit that experience to their advantage. Crispin did this quite well when they “fired” Nike and were subsequently hired by UnderArmor. What is more compelling than a “man bites dog” story?
  3. It’s the Creative, Stupid — Strategy is good. So is Service. And, it’s awfully nice of you have an Understanding their Business. Digital fluency… hey, great. Clients consider all these things to be included in the price of playing poker; mere table stakes. These are checked boxes and all are purely a means to an end. That end is Creative Execution. You’ve invested millions in cool office space, facilities, processes and technologies — but, your creative is just fair, at best. If you can’t sell your agency with your work, then good luck selling it with all this other stuff. Above all else, clients seek agencies for their CREATIVE communications. Do great work and new business will come to you. You want Inbound Marketing? Then do great work. How? It starts at the top.
  4. Hire Leaders, Fire Followers — What’s at the top filters down. If you are retaining leadership (Creative or otherwise) simply to maintain existing business by not making waves or rocking the boat, then you will never grow. You will continue running on the treadmill. You will only get phone sex and not the real thing. Your coffee will be decaf. Sorry, but to grow, you have to risk rocking the boat. Your good clients will recognize and respect that you are really acting in their best interests by changing. You are upping the ante. You are improving your game. Stand still, and you will die a slow death.
  5. Be Decisive, Don’t Look Back — Put a stake in the ground. What is your agency’s value proposition? How do you create a point of differentiation? If you create nothing else — create that. Make that POD own-able. Then rebrand yourself accordingly. Make it simple and universally understandable. If you have to explain who you are in more than 20 seconds…then BLOW IT UP. It won’t work anymore. The rate of change around you is so rapid. you’ll get whiplash.

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