Toward a more perfect union
What agencies and clients can learn from the US Constitution
After several decades of working in agencies and owning one, I have spent considerable time observing agency/client relationships. What makes some great and what makes some fail and I’ve had my share of both. What I’ve seen is that the great ones share a few things in common.
In looking for examples of great relationships, I started with famous couples. Meghan and Harry, Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny and Cher, Tessa and Scott, all interesting, but not very helpful as an analogy for agencies and clients. As I reflected on it, a phrase from my American childhood kept coming into my head - toward a more perfect union. Given that it’s the preamble to the US Constitution, it is an unlikely source of inspiration. Especially these days. But I’m not going to comment on the political at all; rather, borrowing the words as a guide for how clients and agencies interact in the best possible world.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
So with a little shift in interpretation and some poetic license, I’ll break down why it fits:
IN ORDER TO FORM A MORE PERFECT UNION
When an agency and client decide to work together, this is the goal. We’re excited to do great work together, and each of us is filled with a sense of possibility of huge success ahead. In an ideal relationship, we are partners in the pursuit of a perfect union. A union of strategy, creative thinking, goals, metrics, understanding of the business, and alignment on what joint success looks like. And the language represents what we’re doing ‘toward’ implies we’re always going somewhere else, and ‘more’ tells us we’re continuing to improve, a work in progress. Which we know all relationships are.
OK, so justice might be a bit of a stretch when we’re talking about marketing. But, in a great relationship, fairness and respect is always front and center. A great client and a great agency know how to talk to each other, make decisions, deal with deadlines, budgets and always have a sense of fairness with each other. We know what keeps the other up at night and both work to support the other. We both want the other’s business to thrive and grow. So yeah, justice is important.
INSURE DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY
In our world tranquility means agreement and a happy client. While I wholeheartedly believe that the relationship is a give and take, it’s always important to remember who is paying who. Agencies are in the service business and like most services, our job is to give the customer what they want and few things they never would have known to ask for. So when the client is happy and we’re in agreeance on what we should be delivering, that’s as tranquil as we get.
PROVIDE FOR COMMON DEFENSE
Stretching the language a bit, we’re all – both agency and client - working for the same thing in marketing. We’re ‘fighting’ for market share, ‘defending’ our brand equity and ensuring that we build enough tools to ‘win’. To prepare for battle, we have rules and guidelines in place, but mostly, we have a strong enough partnership to take on all that comes our way.
PROMOTE THE GENERAL WELFARE
We all want the same thing: to excel at our roles, to be acknowledged, to enjoy winning relationships and ultimately, do great work. We’re all in this business because it can be fun, and is full of interesting, smart and creative people. When we’re enjoying all of this, it works. And it’s great.
SECURE THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY TO OURSELVES AND OUR POSTERITY
When we’re in a great agency/great client relationship, we enjoy lots of benefits (read blessings). Obviously. Everyone is winning. We are free of the stress of worrying about the relationship. Both businesses thrive, individuals get promotions, awards are won.
We need to be thankful. For working in an industry that lets us work on great projects and have fun. So take a moment to tell your partner how much you value them and the work you do together. Acknowledge how they’ve provided you with everything you need to do excel at your job. And it does remind us why we’re in this business to start with, and helps us frame a model for all the other relationships that may not be there yet. And if they can’t get there, move on.
And while not wanting to be political, even the worst client – agency relationship is considerably better than the US is doing on its more perfect union. Just sayin.
-Bonnie Hillman, President