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  • David Meikle

Working with Animals, Children and Ad Agencies

At first glance animals, children, and ad agencies might seem like an odd bunch to group together, but they have more in common that it might first appear, for example:

  • Dog owners spend hours training their pets, and indeed they want them to perform well: to come when called, to sit when instructed, even attack - if it’s that kind of dog.

  • Parents want the best for their children. Who wouldn’t want their progeny to perform well at school? To learn, to progress and to achieve to their highest potential.

So, before we look at what these two have to do with advertising agencies, let’s see what dogs and children have in common when it comes to the optimal way they are trained or raised:

  • They are rewarded for good behaviour

  • They thrive in loving, safe environments

  • They get better and better with prolonged, consistent, positive treatment…

  • …And it makes them unshakeably loyal

  • They are firmly corrected for bad behaviour but punishment is proportionate, short-lived and followed by love and encouragement

  • They are never punished for mistakes made with good intentions, though they are corrected

And we know a frightened dog won’t come when it’s called. And we know a scared child won’t learn, progress and achieve as well as one who feels safe, loved and encouraged.

Here’s the thing; grown-ups really aren’t any different. When you examine the dynamics of the relationships between advertisers and their agencies most of the principles of parent/child and master/dog training teaching and learning apply.

Similarly, an ad agency will only ever play safe or reluctantly comply with its client when threatened. And this should be a serious cause of concern for their clients.

Because the key difference between dogs, children, and advertising agencies, is when a brand is working with a good agency it’s because they expect greater value from it than the brand could achieve on its own. But if the agency is routinely threatened it will rarely challenge the brand team’s thinking and thereby the agency won’t improve on that thinking. The quickest way to avoid threats and consequences is to comply.

Managing an agency for value might benefit from the principles of parent/child relationships or a master/dog relationship, but it’s actually more like a patient/doctor relationship.

And what sort of doctor should a brand want? A doctor who will tell them the truth or one that is compliant and will simply do as their patient asks for fear of losing them as a patient.

Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley both had compliant doctors …

David Meikle

Author and Founder How to Buy a Gorilla.

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