Decisions, delays and donuts

Working for consulting firms and an Indianapolis advertising agency or two, I’ve been fortunate to interact directly with decision makers on the client side. I have been able to hear their vision and understand their philosophies and strategies – firsthand. Taking time to learn about their sacred cows and pet peeves, and being able to challenge their thinking so we could craft and implement their brand, and deliver communications that cost-effectively achieved or exceeded their marketing objectives.

Recently this has been less of the norm. Decision makers are becoming less available and approachable. Being understaffed and overworked appears to be the root cause. Decision makers have to spend more time working in the business, leaving less time for them to work on the business. This leaves all the rich context and invaluable feedback to be filtered through channels and co-workers. Or worst, input and decisions are delegated to and through committees.

Efficiency is the quick and easy justification for these transactional relationships. However, this isn’t actually true. In reality, it causes delays, cost overruns and frustration on both the client side and the agency side due to the lack of information and interaction.

The flow of ideas and thinking is diminished. Sparks of inspiration and fluidity of marketing challenges are lost, as are significant details expressed by the decision maker and by the agency. Collaboration and communications are not only disrupted, but too often key points are misinterpreted or completely brushed aside by the intermediaries. Or, all too commonly misunderstood or misread through email.

It would be great if we could roll back the clock and slow down long enough to enjoy a glazed donut or two. Do you remember when a box of donuts was a staple at meetings? So much could be learned and shared during these sugar-laden sessions. Of course, healthy eating has caused these donut discussions to be replaced by bagels. And more recently, the bagel became the casualty of low-carb diets.

Today, the healthier action would be to reinstate the brain dump and brainstorming meetings with your agency. Level-setting sessions are vital to making sure your agency is on the same page and delivering the creativity and measured marketing you demand. Otherwise, you may be unfairly feeling and saying that your agency doesn’t “get it.” Instead, call them in to share some donuts and deep discussions about your brand and your marketing. You might just thank me.

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