4 Things I Learned From Being Both The Client And The Agency

4 Things I Learned From Being Both The Client And The Agency



One of the best aspects of working in advertising is the wide variety of work. Serving different clients in numerous industries means that no two days are the same, and you’re constantly exposed to a plethora of exciting brands and products.

At the same time, this diversity means that agencies have the huge task of understanding the ins and outs of all their clients, the background of their brands and the nuances of each and every product.

The things that matter to agencies are not necessarily the things that are important to the client and yet, as the agency you’re expected to fully-understand your client’s every requirement – no easy task.

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Most agencies call it client service, but I call it headology, because it is all about taking the time to establish great relationships, and adding all the ingredients that are needed to grow and nurture them.

These include listening, empathy, the courage to have hard conversations, and the willingness to dance with your client as you move towards uncovering what is the kernel of all successful brands and enterprises: the identification of its purpose and how to impact your clients’ most important relationship – that which they have with their customer. Once done, the aim is then to discover how to speak the customers’ particular “language of love”.

My advertising journey has taken me across Africa and sectors, and has been inspiring, heady, breathtaking and, sometimes, downright wild.

And, no matter where you are and who your client is, here are my top four insights gained from having been both the client and ad agency, and they should apply:


1Don’t pretend to understand your client’s business

There is a disconnect between many clients and their agencies because agencies don’t take the time to fully understand their client’s business, the industry and the minutiae that make up his/her day.

Bring in the experts in the field and immerse yourself in their industry and ultimately learn to speak your client’s language.

2Awards are not a guarantee of new business

In fact, very often your many awards will have the exact opposite effect. The fact that you can make clever, colourful ads doesn’t tell prospective business that you know how to sell their product.

And every client wants an agency that’s going to make stuff sell. This may not be the cleverest idea and prettiest execution, but sales trump awards every time.

Related: Great Places To Take Your Clients When Networking

3Agencies need to keep up with the changing pace of business

It’s great that you’re familiar with the communications industry and all the latest developments, but it’s important to understand what’s happening from a broader business perspective.

What’s happening in the economy as a whole and how is it impacting on your client’s business? Not only are you a creative, you are a scenario planner and a trend analyst.

4Your client needs you to add value

Agencies need to step out of the role of clever communications creators and become business partners. Figure out what it is that your client needs to best assist his business and, in some cases, that may not even involve a communications campaign.

It might mean opening a door to a useful alliance, helping him gain new business or lobbying for legislation change. Do whatever it takes to make yourself indispensable. After all, their success is your success, it is a 100% mutual relationship. You need your client and their good will, as much as they need you and yours.

Wayne Naidoo
Founder and CEO of ad agency DUKE, YPO member, and veteran Adman, Wayne believes that a fierce imagination, good data and a bold heart can liberate businesses and profitable opportunities for clients. With over 25 years in the advertising industry, he has served as the Marketing Manager of the Cape Town Olympic Bid Committee, Group CEO of Louwe Bull and Chief Marketing Officer for afb (now JUMO World), which is now one of Africa’s fastest growing Fintech companies. After this, Wayne returned to his first love, advertising, and started DUKE. Wayne has served as the Chairman for the Association for Communication and Advertising in South Africa (ACA), a board member for the AAA School of Advertising, and Chairman of YPO Cape Town.