Honesty or Arrogance?

The Moment of Truth (or lack of): A large client asks to make a significant change to our work that will make the strategy much less effective.

Though grossly simplified, this is, unfortunately, a rather familiar situation in our industry. A situation that I believe many advertising professionals deal with dishonestly. They smile and make the client’s change. Not because they enjoy deceiving clients, but because they don’t want to risk bruising the relationship. Because it’s all about relationships, right? The truth is that agencies digging in their heels and challenging clients are often labeled as “hard to work with” or “arrogant”.  Yes, creative people can be both, but before affixing a permanent tag, I believe all clients should carefully evaluate these Moments of Truth. Listen carefully to the agency’s rationale on why the change is not being embraced. Don’t let the word “no” close your mind. Yes, it can catch you off guard and make you mad; but let that initial emotion pass and take a big picture look at the motivation behind the agency’s action. The truth is, by nixing this particular request, your advertising firm may be working harder than ever to deliver what you want — reaching your marketing goals.

It’s easy for clients to label an agency’s resistance to a suggested revision as arrogance and it’s even easier for advertising people to avoid friction by responding to a client change with a polite “we can try that.” Fortunately, for clients and consumers, there are still advertising agencies uninspired by the easy route. Creating the great work and getting the amazing results is what drives these professionals. And they realize this requires a lot of hard work…which often includes being honest with clients.


  1. Erik (the one you're thinking)

    Shawn it is interesting that clients behave this way, even in my business. When i think of a really good campaign(or idea) a lot of times it is on the edge, which most of the time is an uncomfortable place to be, but this is what grabs attention. Companies, especially when they aren’t happy with their current situation should embrace the other angle and trust the professionals they are paying.

  2. Shawn


  3. Anonymous


  4. Shawn

    Fail. Meaning being honest doesn’t work? Or this entire post gets an F?

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