Even better than the real thing

The clue was in the name.

I attended an industry event this week in London. I sat feeling humbled on a bench in the UK head office of a behemoth of a digital agency. I looked around and wondered why I was there and how on earth I might contribute something with so much talent on display.

I felt intimidated looking at the speaker line up and the theme and tried to work out what I could say if I had to talk on topic.

The topic being (and I will give the clean version because I’m polite that way) – I wish I had done that. It was a number of high profile industry creative heads showing work that, well, they wish they had been responsible for.

I was a little in awe of their confident positioning and smart words, their gregarious style and apparent intimacy with everyone in the room. 

But at the same time I was a little surprised. Taken aback even. That, whilst they correctly were presenting work that was truly brilliant creative, I feared they might be missing the point.

When answers to questions on the floor encouraged people to “stop sitting and waiting for briefs, just go out and do what you want, create whatever excites you, build because you can”, I wondered if we had lost sight of what matters when you’re an agency.

The client.

They’re the only thing that matters (I’ll caveat that, great agency leaders care passionately about their people, their profile, their product) but none of it happens unless you have great clients.

  • Clients who believe in you.
  • Clients who trust in you.
  • Clients who create with you.

It’s brilliant to dream. To think big. To imagine wonder. But our responsibility is to answer
to the client. To deliver their dreams. Their big thinking. Their wonder imagined. To make them achieve their goals, so we can, in turn, achieve ours.

The demands on them are real. I was lucky enough to have Helen Campbell, Head of Global Brand of VisitScotland, come in and talk to the Realise client service team the other day. I asked her a series of questions about her career, what kept her awake at night, how she gets her inspiration, how can she deliver value to her business, what blocks success in her market, what makes for a great agency relationship.

She summed it up perfectly:

  • Passion for her product.
  • Insight to her challenges.
  • Experience we could bring.

It’s far beyond being about credentials, case studies, crafted responses to tender questions. It’s about me telling her the experience I had when 8 months pregnant and feeling very faint, I stopped outside a coffee shop in Gullane at 4:55 in the afternoon (which advertised it closed at 5pm). I asked if I could sit down and buy a cup of tea. No, they replied, we are closing. I said could I even have a glass of water. Again no, we are closed. It’s about me telling her how that felt – VisitScotland? No thanks, not if that’s representative of the service you experience when you do. It’s then about me asking her whether that’s an issue – she can’t control the customer experience (she doesn’t own the channel) because, as a proud Scot, I care about how Scotland is viewed in the world. I love every square metre of this glorious country. I’m passionate that we get it right.

I was lucky I could offer insight. I  travel a lot. I can tell her about the opposite end of the spectrum when I visited Cromlix near Dunblane and had a service experience that I have told the world over about. I could tell her about the work we have done with other brands in her sector and what we have learnt about the “modern explorers”, travellers, holidaymakers and where they go to get their references. How they will benchmark Scotland.

Then I can deliver a “new world” suggestion for her, grounded in the experience and skills and capabilities we have. Hopefully skills and capabilities that compliment or add to her own and that of her team. My job then is to create what excites her. Not what excites me. Something relevant, appropriate, smart, inventive that gives her the outcomes, the results that give VisitScotland success.

As it happens we’re not an agency
of VisitScotland.

So I do all this because, as I said before, what matters is the client. Or your future client. At every event, on every report, in every blog, we preach about putting customers first.

Then let’s do just that. Let’s stop internalising. Or fantasising about the creative monuments we want to erect. Realise as an agency has always set it’s stall out as an authentic agency, one of substance, one of character.

We believe in being real. Genuine people. Honest talk. Straightforward (even when painful) advice. Our foundations are simple in this respect. To stay true to our purpose – however you want to phrase it.

The language at times doesn’t help any of us. Enabling marketers through technology. Delivering innovative digital solutions. Being at the intersection of media, creative and tech (hang head in shame if you have said this).

We used to say we built stuff. We still do. Marketers careers.