How different is client servicing in the millennial era? I had been catching up with ad agency folk in the last few years, and some instances highlight changing times for me. My grounding was in an agency where client servicing meant a high level of dedication, even being embedded into the client organization and even indistinguishable from them.

Millenials seem to be inert to celebrities and have their priorities solidly fixed.  In a rare combination of stellar arrangement, different festivals lined up to provide corporate offices a long weekend of four days (six if you took leave on one intervening weekday).  Needless to say elaborate plans had been made long in advance.

Guess when a superstar celebrity decided to give dates for his shoot? Yes, right in the middle of this long weekend.  The creative storylines had been approved and signed off by all parties, and only the celebrity’s time was awaited.  The films department had already gotten into action and arranged everything for the shoot.  The question was who from client-servicing would be there for the shoot?

Turns out no one.  Everyone blankly refused to change their holiday plans – from a team of five on the account (and more from the group). Not even the chance of achieving social media fame by grabbing a selfie with superstar was incentive for them.

Finally one of the old hands, one could call him a veteran – who was in the agency on a special assignment offered to help out. He handled the entire shoot and even a bit of the post production, and handed this over back to the team when they returned post their holidays. All neat, clean and done, only a gift wrapping and bow tie missing.

(Needless to say the popular veteran finally started his own agency and is doing well).

Last year I joined an ad agency team discussing annual plans with one of their lead clients, and I was meeting the client for the first time. As I was being taken around the clients office, one of the agency staffers enquired why the marketing director was nowhere to be seen? We were informed that he’s at the hospital helping his wife return post delivery of their second child.

The meeting carried on, but it seemed the agency were hearing this for the first time, and post our meeting the agency head casually asked his team to send a bunch of flowers to the marketing director. My assignment with the agency didn’t work out, but from what I gather that account has moved on to another agency.

Another incident highlights a similar aspect differently.  Ad agency CEOs dedicate some time for their largest clients attending annual reviews, critical meetings, events etc. but also earmark time for individual one-to-one sessions with the Head Honchos of their clients.  One such agency chief returned from a similar lunch to call for a panic meeting to review the status of this account, and be ready for a re-pitch.   15 minutes into the lunch with the client head honcho, she knew something was up and asked him when his last day was? The head honcho revealed that he was moving on within a month, and the agency chief then spent time understanding this in greater detail – both the opportunity in the new place the client was moving to, as well as the risk to their account.

What was surprising was this account was a highly active high pressure account with a large team interacting with different departments of the client on a daily basis. Yet no one seemed to have any clue of this and seemed genuinely surprised to find this out from the agency chief. (One could argue the agency chief had special access, but even then…)

Perhaps these are isolated instances and exceptions, but yet show times are changing.  I personally found that market research agencies sometimes forge stronger bonds with marketing teams, even though the interface might be limited to only a couple of projects and presentations in a year.

The current corporate landscape is connected like never before. We have moved beyond landline phones and faxes and even cellphone calls, text messages and paging. There’s WhatsApp, Google hangouts, social media (FB, Twitter etc.) – the works!  And yet it did seem surprising that ad agency folk seem so disconnected from and disinterested in their client teams or their work!

Is it the millennial mindset or have clients changed? Or maybe it was always like this…?

 

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