Want to know a secret? When I started working as a copywriter, I didn’t care too much about whether my work, well, worked. In fact, that was basically the last thought in my head. However, with time and experience, this attitude has changed—and for the better.
I cared about doing work that I liked and could show my mum and dad. I cared whether it impressed the people who passed by my office. I cared whether it won awards, because that meant I might be rewarded with fame and fortune—the desire for which, to be frank, was in those days a key driver behind my presence in the industry.
But to be bothered more than a jot about whether any of it sold product? That would have seemed too uncool. What was I, an account man? I considered myself an artist, hired by people whose ultimate motives I preferred to discount. Once these people—these clients—had provided the platform for me to have fun and do my stuff, their relevance was pretty well exhausted as far as I was concerned. And that was a view I’d bet most of my young compadres would have endorsed.
That was all well and good, and perhaps even necessary. But sooner or later, as we grow up in the business, this attitude changes. We start to actually meet more clients and discover that most of them are a lot more like us than we imagined, and that their concerns are, surprisingly often, valid. Eventually, I reached the conclusion that however “pure” a creative we may consider ourselves to be, producing work that yields results for our clients cannot be anything except our primary motive.
Because the truth is that we didn’t choose to become poets, novelists, musicians or fine artists. Not for a living, anyway. And it wasn’t because anyone stopped us. What we did choose was to put our talents at the service of clients. And the least those clients deserve for furnishing us with so many fabulous toys is that we do our best for them. Not just when they’re leading the fight against cancer or discouraging drinking and driving, but when they’re peddling bathroom cleaners and accountancy software, too. Quite simply, that’s the deal. And if we welshed on it, we’d be cheating only ourselves.
So, making the client a bit of an afterthought would certainly be an extremely misguided thing to do. Yet I’d contend that today, that’s exactly what we’re in danger of doing. There’s a great deal being said about new technologies, and just as much about new philosophies. Extraordinary intellects are proclaiming fresh and original ways to cut the cake. Isn’t there, too often, something missing? Like what—and who—it’s all for?
Some years ago, the chairman of one of London’s leading agencies had a three-word phrase for what he wanted his company to do. It wasn’t “Post bigger profits,” “Win more awards” or “Have better ideas,” though he would have welcomed all three. It wasn’t even “Reinvent the wheel,” though reinvented wheels do indeed have a potent and lustrous appeal. It was: “Delight the client.” If I were a client in today’s business environment, I’d like to see that sentiment cropping up just a little bit more often.
Hugo Kondratiuk is a senior copywriter at gyro London.