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In my last post I waxed eloquent about the economic reasons for pursuing a diverse client base. “Duh,” you say, despite the many agencies that ignore that obvious rule.

Yet there are other reasons for diversification, all of which have their own economic underpinnings but get at larger agency management practices. Here are a few – along with an invitation to share your insights here as well:


  • Diverse client work keeps the creative from getting restless. Sure, they whine anyway. But you can tolerate it better when you know that you’re doing all you can to keep their fertile minds challenged, amused and engaged. You still might find their legendary and ubiquitous carping an irritant, but now you can smugly dismiss it.


  • The ability to tackle different kinds of challenges makes you more valuable to existing clients. The more you can do – and learn to do well, even for other clients – the more valuable you might be to a client that uses your skills in only one way.
  • A willingness to embrace the new keeps you relevant in the marketplace. You know, that place where your prospective clients live. It’s a cliché anymore to say how rapidly changing advertising, marketing and media are. But it’s dead true. If you aren’t learning how to solve new problems with the next generation of strategic thinking, technology and creative adaptation, then you are the admiral of a sinking ship.


  • Building a reputation for diverse capabilities also helps in recruiting fresh, hot talent. What agency animal with any go in him/her wants to move to your zoo if nothing exciting ever happens there? And with fresh talent should come better service for existing clients, new approaches to prospects and many even a new recruit who brings a client along with her/him.

Finally, someone has declared that the emperor (sometimes – too often) has no clothes. And that’s not a pleasant sight all the time. Nor is the word he uses to describe sub-par work a pleasant one: he calls it “crappy.” Nor is his soapbox low-profile.

That someone is Derek Walker, owner of the Columbia, SC-based agency brown and browner advertising. His scolding article, Doing That Crap Is Going to Cost You: Agencies (and Clients) Pay More for Shoddy Work, appeared in Advertising Age‘s The Big Tent blog.

It’s a worthy read, albeit a rough ride for advertising and marketing agencies that have settled for less of themselves in the recent downturn. (I suspect its message will be lost on those who have always settled for less, and sadly there are many agencies in that category.)

His missive rang true to my principles, so I couldn’t resist leaving comments in his post. I’m sharing my commentary here lest it not be found in the long list of others who have responded to his hard but true assessment:


Agencies at the highest risk of producing “crappy” work:

  • Have no clear sense of themselves – their service set, value proposition or for that matter value to clients
  • View new client acquisition, and even current client development, as transaction-based vs. relationship-based
  • Believe that their talented team members are mere workers

As a result, these agencies will:

  • Almost always compete on price
  • Miss opportunities for innovations that keep their businesses viable over time
  • Struggle to attract and retain the best talent (unless the marketplace is at the bottom)

While some agency leaders might bristle at his article, Derek Walker has done the entire industry a service by sharing his insights.

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