Thanks to longtime mentor and friend Bramwell Ryan for penning the following post…
Character assassination, justification of a decision, career enhancement, arguing for a new course of action, wooing a new mistress or keeping the current one happy… the truck-load of purposes clients bring to communication projects always amaze me.
Lots of clients forget that the primary reason for communications is to create a message or set of messages in such a way that the end-user is better informed, motivated to some action or that starts stirring the emotional cauldron. Instead lots of clients see communications as a chance to settle a score.
This is especially so when one is a writer and dealing with the client about words. While copy can be bold it can also be subtle and in the space between the two there’s room for lots of mischief. It’s harder to be subtle in design… after all, smuggling a photo of the boss with a bulls-eye on his forehead into a layout is hard to miss, and might be a bad career move. But deft copywriting can peel away a reputation, skewer an idea and inflate an ego without warning flags flapping. But in doing this the writer is only helping the client fail. After all, the place to shred a reputation is in the lunch room; the place to justify a decision is in the boardroom; the place to propel the career is on the golf course; arguing for a new course of action is best done in the bar after the golf game and… the best way to keep the mistress happy is to leave her out of the photo shoot (and that includes her kids too). None of these assignments belong in a communication project and if they are part of it, then the project fails in its primary purpose.
I think small budgets and infrequent communication activity are the reason for clients thinking that projects are personal vehicles of expression rather than corporate efforts to address the world outside the doors of their office. They think the current assignment is their only platform, their only chance to make their mark, their only opportunity to order their world in the right way. This breeds a ‘last chance’ mentality. Do it now or regret it later. Trouble is, aiding and abetting clients in this kind of behaviour always leads to regret later.