Both parties must state the values they commit to in the future relationship, says TBWA\Raad’s Jennifer Fischer.
All service providers handle their client-relationship management the same way – from boardroom meetings to contact reports, from fancy dinners to contract negotiations. We are not accountants or lawyers, though. We are supposed to be a creative industry, but seem incapable of applying that to our own behaviours.
What inspired my talk for the International Advertising Association at Dubai Lynx 2015 was a recent trip to New Delhi for a friend’s wedding. As a bridesmaid, I got to experience up close the effervescence of Indian weddings. For a French girl like me, this was a very exotic and exciting experience – so many colours, music, and ceremonies. But what fascinated me the most was how Indian weddings are not just about bringing two people together but uniting two entire families.
Indian weddings are all about rituals. They go on for several days and take the families through a series of ceremonies meant to unite them – to create a successful and productive relationship between all of their respective constituents. So there was a lot to be learned there.
During my friend’s wedding, the first time the two extended families met was during the Sangeet party. It was a lively and colourful happening, the day before the official wedding, with family members putting up shows based on Bollywood songs or performing traditional dances for the viewing pleasure of the other family.
How do agencies and clients get to know each other? We convene everyone for a boardroom meeting, which usually starts with everyone introducing themselves – clockwise, please – and follows with a lot of boasting through credentials presentations. It is very much like that first awkward day at school, only sadder.
Though I am not suggesting that we create a musical every time we meet a new client (please don’t make me sing), I cannot help but think we could be more true to who we are as a creative industry. If the goal is to get to know each other, then how about going on a picnic, organising a potluck or even creating a memorial graffiti mural to remember this day?
Another key ceremony during Hindu weddings is the Saptapadi. It means ”Seven Steps” and is the most important ceremony of all. During this ritual, the bride and groom take seven steps around the holy fire, each one representing a promise. Caring, togetherness, friendship, support: each vow sets the basis for the future relationship.
Agencies and clients make promises too. But they call that a contract and make it all about financials, resources and structure. They say nothing of commitment, support, honesty or respect. They do not define what values we commit to in the future relationship.
What if we asked our teams to make their own promises, to take vows to make this relationship more successful? How much more engaged would we – and our clients – be?
Indian weddings are but an example. There are myriad of other places and rituals all around us we can gain some inspiration from. Agencies are experts at creating meaning for brands. It is about time we apply this know-how to ourselves. It is time for each agency to create its own rituals based on its personal culture and set of values. It will make plenty of things more fun and enjoyable, but also tremendously help build long lasting and successful relationships with our clients. Families stick together better and longer than business partners.
(The author Jennifer Fischer was one of three young professionals chosen to present at the Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity 2015. This article was written on the subject of her presentation, on the invitation of Campaign Middle East. Fischer is a strategic planning manager at TBWA\Raad. Views expressed are personal. )