Let’s save our marriage, Mr. Hotshot Account Director

Dear Account Director,

We have been married for, oh let me see, 4 years now and its been a great ride so far. But of late, like any crumbling marriage I see we have a lot of work to do together to make it happy one. Since we are too busy to sit down and discuss this over our weekly review meetings, I thought this letter might tell you all the crazy stuff in my head. Just so I clear it you know…

In 1984, the average client-agency relationship tenure was 7.2 years. By 1997 that number declined by 25 percent to 5.3 years. Today the average client-agency tenure is thought to be less than three years. (The Bedford Group). So by that standard, we are already way past the 3 year itch :-). Warning bells!

I know I should talk to you more, but you are never here. Have I lost my looks? Do you not find me intellectually challenging ? Am I not worth your time any more? Frankly my dear I am not going to wallow. I am your business partner of the digital age and I have my options too, you know. You know more than 30 percent of U.S. agency revenue came from digital in 2015, representing more than $14billion in revenues. There were more than 13,200 advertising agencies in the U.S. in 2010. (US Census Bureau). So guess what? I might just walk out on you someday, and revel in the global choices I am now empowered to make.

But before I do that, I think there are a few home truths we should both be aware of. We owe it to each other after all these years of spending together. And maybe we can work it out together…

Silence isn’t golden. Let’s talk.

If we haven’t been talking, I want you to know why. Maybe I should take my work someplace else . Someone else would probably understand me better. After all these years, I would have guessed you know how I feel , how I think, but it was wrong of me to assume anything. We never got to know each other maybe. I must have left literally hundreds of cues you probably didn’t notice. Maybe you let things linger, because of the fat retainer I keep sending you at the end of every month. Or may I wasn’t so clear in telling you what I really wanted. Communication is the bedrock of every successful marriage so please don’t remain studiously insensitive. Call me, phone me, text me…anything, lets talk regularly and honestly. That is the key isn’t it? You know ANA’s survey tells us that 27% of agencies agreed that the assignments they were given by clients were clear, while 43% disagreed. In contrast, 58% of clients reported that they provide clear assignments while 43% of these clients disagreed. I agree , I need to change too.

Conscious uncoupling …My left eyeball !

When we started out, you spent so much time understanding me. I told you how I felt and I asked how you did too, about it. There was so much communication and it was so much fun! Where did all the fun go? Maybe like all love affairs, I got carried away by the first flush of our dopamine -laced trysts. If you truly understood me and my business, then you would know what it takes to run it. Sometimes, when I have like a really critical assignment, I get a note from you, that you are going away on vacation and completely incommunicado for those days. Just when I need you the most. You know that makes me feel so helpless, so lachrymal right ? Yet you choose to ignore it. Tell me- Is it apathy? Is it emotional dis -engagement? Is it the famous “conscious uncoupling” that Gwyneth Paltrow talked about some time ago? Talk to me hon. When did apathy creep in?

I walked in wearing my new colored lenses.. You didn’t notice.

Things are changing. I am changing constantly. Why don’t you see it? We live in an incredibly dynamic environment where internal and external forces are converging to pull me in different directions. And everyday I need to change because I get a new curve ball thrown at me, that I need you to help me with . They say you need to work every single day in a marriage. Yeah I guess thats what we don’t do. Work together every single day. Because you know what- while you are schmoozing with new Ms you met at the club last night, I just got myself botoxed needles and all- business wise. You just didn’t notice the new me:-).

Let’s understand each other . Really. Truly.

It’s not that I don’t trust you. I do. And I also know you have a bunch of other assignments that keep you busy. I trust you will do all that is required to help me meet my objectives. And that is where we start losing objectivity. I’ll tell you what I mean. Sometimes I don’t care so much about like spending hours of time laboring over logo placements or creative color palettes that you get so worked up about. Sometimes I don’t care that you need two weeks to create a world class campaign because you are servicing someone else. I know I should, but sometimes I can’t because while you are it, smoking your creative reefer i.e., I am potentially losing revenue. Mostly, I just want my business to run with your help. And that will run, if you sometimes stopped using your hyper creative lens and started wearing your uber cool business goggles. We need to understand that we both need each other to succeed. That’s all.

Don’t crucify me for being Hormonal please

You know I do have my snappy days. I don’t always say the right things. That’s because like you, I am struggling with juggling so many organizational dynamics. Just like how you morphed from an advertising to a full fledged digital agency, my business pressures are enormous too. And that may mean, I expect you to run with me at my pace, on my terms. Is that asking for too much? The average CMO tenure is rising, which could be good news for you or not..depending on how much you want us to stay together. It currently hovers somewhere around 43 months, compared with 23.2 months in 2006. (SpencerStuart). Love me or hate me, I am here to stay. You have to figure out a way to deal with that and my changing goals..ie if you want us to be together. And I will find a way to deal with the fact that you go high on creative testosterone sometimes :-).

Status Quo just doesn’t cut it anymore. But just how crazy is sane?

Bet you know that already. I need a new fix every single time. Why? Because I want to look different, be more clutter breaking, than every other wannabe out there in my business. And I need to do this all the time. I need to reinvent my self every single day. And I want to see you helping me be innovative every single time. And admittedly you do go with the flow by being so creative. But I also need you to help me draw the line. Like how different is risky? How crazy is sane? When I say I want to win an award at Cannes, don’t junk your business hat and trade it for creative zaniness. Or the other way around. One of us has to keep cool. I walk the thin line between creative insanity and business relevance and sometimes the smallest nudge can tip me over the edge. Don’t give me a serotonin shot every time you walk in with the creatives. That just might be the end of me.

Yet, when it comes to the inner workings of our relationship, there’s a serious disconnect between what one side believes and the other’s perception. Where 88% of clients claim to speak their mind freely, only 36% of agency partners agree. Where 90% of agencies say they truly understand their clients’ business, only 65% of other-halves agree. Admittedly I may be guilty of not having given you more clear briefs about what I want or what I feel. I promise to change.

I am done writing for now. And I do want to make this journey exciting and meaningful for us as long as we are together .Oh.. I don’t want to say “till death do us apart”, or anything weird like that, but it would be nice to renew our vows again. I would love that. I am still so fond of you!

I know you have been thinking about the answers. Well, what are you waiting for? Where’s all that excitement about the new campaign that we felt the first time? The rush of blood to the face when we saw the campaign headlines together , the smell of the brand new creatives, the soft crunch of the media plan umm it was so heady! Don’t you want to re live that too? Every single time? With me?

Let’s talk Darling…I’ll be waiting for your call ..


Your Client

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