Playing the hate game: agencies vs clients


I get the pleasure of speaking to various people at multiple digital agencies thanks to my line of work and the complaint is universal: “clients have no idea how to brief us or what we can even do for them”. I also have the pleasure of seeing a fair amount of big corporates who are so bamboozled by their agencies that they have no clue if they’re going down the right path.

The issue is fairly complex: agencies (in an effort to compete) are highly generalist. They’ll offer you services ranging from websites to SEO, SEM, strategy, social media and anything else they can attach some billing hours to.

On the other end of the spectrum we see clients in a corporate marketing department being completely bombarded by three letter acronyms when they’re used to simply putting a billboard up on the highway and hoping for the best.

Both agencies and clients have enjoyed this educational gap. Agencies have been able to profit and clients have been able to get away with ticking boxes such as “having a Twitter account”.

This has led to animosity in both camps and rightfully so. Much like a bad co-dependent relationship (is that a tautology?) we seem to find many competitors for the hate game. Agencies hate clients and their “unreasonable requests”. Clients hate the fact that every request they make usually means an Account Manager has to get involved and provide a cost estimate.

Streamlining the process is easy: if a client understood exactly what is required for their latest campaign they’d be able to brief their agency. The reality is that agencies would then not have multiple reverts on the work and everyone is happy.

Let me be blunt: it’s a matter of education. There simply isn’t enough learning going on at both clients and agencies. Clients don’t know what to ask for and agencies don’t know how to ask the right questions.

If the current cycle continues you’re basically better off lighting cigars with two hundred rand notes. Start pumping money immediately into educating your staff (here’s looking at both parties) or else this weird hate game is only going to continue and digital as an industry will continue to suffer.



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