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Editor's Note:

I just wanted to let my readers know that I've created a blog where I will be posting essays and articles I've written on digital and online marketing. It's an extension of Media Perspectives. I hope you continue to read and enjoy!

Here's the link: Jaffer Ali's Blog - Perspectives from a Media Contrarian

Thanks for Reading!

Walking the Walk with Your Online Agency
by: Jaffer Ali
(Originally Published: 3/25/2010)

Many of my recent articles have dealt with theoretical concepts and the need to identify the underlying principles that define our intent of focus. Today I turn to how those principles--schwerpunkt and cheng/ch'i, for example--must defer to practical application. To that end, I have often spoken ill of advertising agencies in general, and of online agencies in particular. So, is it therefore reasonable to ask: Why did Vidsense hire an agency? Or, even more to the point: How is that working for us?

As a believer in the Zen Buddhist dictum, the answer is in the question, let me begin by introducing you to our agency, the Brothers Einstein. Helmed by Jeff and Mike Einstein, they represent the very best our industry has to offer; two engaging personalities who definitely walk the walk. They are strategic thinkers who bring more than 50 years of marketing experience to bear on our behalf; architects of ideation intrinsic to our efforts to shape the unique promise our online business model strives to achieve.

I believe the bond we have crafted together is a paradigm for a healthy, productive relationship that transcends the mundane by embracing the need to constantly challenge each other. As a result, the first thing we noticed emerging amongst ourselves--and which we now pursue by design--is a blurred distinction between where Vidsense begins and the Brothers Einstein ends.

This requires that our respective egos always take a back seat to a shared objective. Initially, we had to develop a communication strategy and accompanying language to announce our new video model to the world. The interaction between us was, and is an amazing amalgam of creative energy and purposeful execution.

We trade roles frequently. At times, the Brothers Einstein provide the spark while we add practicality to the mix. Other times, we dream wild ideas secure in our trust of the Brothers Einstein as the rational safety net to catch us when we occasionally fall from our creative high wire. We are so focused on our shared objectives that we subordinate all else to this powerful and proven team dynamic.

Isn't that the way relationships are SUPPOSED to work? This is what I call "symmetry" and in order for relationships to be symmetrical, they MUST be balanced. Rational discourse can resolve 99% of all disagreements when symmetry is present; not just as a buzz word, but as a guiding principle.

The absolute of the symmetry equation is mutual respect. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard agencies refer to their clients as "idiots", and vice versa. The resulting communication disconnect renders any meaningful relationship impossible. How many clients dread speaking with their agencies? And how many agencies avoid confrontations with their clients? How often is essential creative tension destroyed before it has the chance to engender a healthy give and take? How many of us are impervious to the fact that relationship is a two-way street?

When relationships are right, you do not avoid confrontation, you welcome it; indeed demand it. I am on the phone with the Brothers Einstein several times a day and we always walk away with renewed energy and purpose. Again, isn't this the way it's SUPPOSED to be? Of course it is. But in our spreadsheet-driven zeal, authenticity has taken a back seat to dispassionate expediency. We have become an industry of communicators who don't know how to communicate. We expect less from others because we invest so little of ourselves. We get less because we give less. It really is that simple.

But let's view the relationship cup as being half-full and explore the role respect plays in shaping our expectations. I, for one, expect a great deal from relationships. Maybe that's why I have fewer than most. But those that I do have are inspired by a mutual respect that speaks to shared expectations. If you're a client whose agency does not share your expectations, find another agency. If you're an agency whose client does not treat you with respect, walk away. The sad truth is, when given the choice, we invariably follow the path of least resistance. Agencies don't walk away because they can't afford to. Clients don't walk away because they've been conditioned to settle for the devil they know. Neither party pushes the envelope, neither holds the other accountable, and ultimately nobody is satisfied. If you're a client who doesn't see the need for an agency that challenges the status quo, do not hire the Brothers Einstein. Actually, the point is moot, because they wouldn't want to work with you.

I can name several times when Jeff and Mike Einstein saved me from myself. Those who know me will tell you there is often precious little distance from thought to action with me. That can get pretty dicey at times and I am in debt to Jeff and Mike for helping me temper my immediacy; more often than not through disarming humor that helps me prioritize my time and energy and keep things in perspective. All it takes to bring me back to earth is for one of them to proclaim with tongue firmly in cheek: It's much worse than I thought!

I have three boys. I have told all three since they were tots that they could be ANYTHING they want to be. Two are now in college and each of them has told me at different times that I expect too much from them. I have a stock answer: "No, I expect the world. But the more important question is: what do you expect from yourself?"

My recommendation to any client is to find an agency that expects more from themselves than is expected of them. I also suggest that you meet the opportunity at least half way by expecting as much as you possibly can from yourself. If you want a strategic partner that truly walks the walk, contact me, and I will be happy and proud to put you in touch with the Brothers Einstein.


Original Article: Walking the Walk with Your Online Agency

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