Unless you’re a magician, palm reader, or priest, transparency is your friend.
If you are a client services company, or more specifically, advertising or interactive services company, it’s not ok to misrepresent to your client exactly who is performing the services. As more and more companies claim the ability to perform services outside of their actual skill set, the issue is proliferated.
An interactive journeyman of 15 years, weaving in and out of the advertising arena, I’ve seen a fine array of misrepresentation of services performed. Typically, the situation arises in the development phase of a project that is on a tight deadline. Unfortunately, in the more traditional agencies, every interactive project fits this description. Inevitably, the ad agency hires what they call a vendor ( what the vendor calls a partner ). The agency has sold the project in to their client under the false pretense that they’ll be performing all services under their roof. As a result, the vendor is silenced, unable to display their work in their portfolio, harming future business development. The agency not only profits from subcontracting the work at a lower rate, but also is given full credit, profiting even more from the exposure the project brings. Their client is none the wiser.
With the recent fracturing of ad agencies, and the rise of the “integrated” agency, this is thankfully happening less in some instances. And sadly, more in others. Those companies that are more forward thinking realize that it’s ok to be transparent with their client. Some even realize it’s actually better. They’re realizing it’s not only noble to be honest with themselves about their skills, or lack of skills, but also a benefit to show clients they are smart and nimble enough to find a skilled Vendor Partner to get the job done right, on time, and within budget. Clients like this. Vendors Partners like this. Agencies should too.
At theGOOD, we’ve been on both sides of the nickel. We’ve formed great partnerships with agencies that are completely transparent with their clients. They bring us in for pitches right on through design and development. The client is fully aware of who we are, what services we’ll be performing, and how we can help. The result is a better end product. Unfortunately, we’ve also played the roll of Blackwater. A contracted vendor performing double secret services in some shadowy development bunker. These projects are typically one offs, without a future relationship forming. And that’s fine. Not really. It’s disingenuous at best.
If we are the agency that is direct to client, and partner with another agency to help us out on a project, we are always transparent. We don’t do commercials. Nor do we do traditional branding. We couldn’t live with the lie that we do, and it seems silly to pretend.
So, let’s end the charade, guys. Be honest with your clients. Be honest with yourselves. Business will still come to you. Perhaps even more so.