Confessions of a young ad agency staffer: ‘Clients act like 5-year-olds’

This article is part of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor to get an unvarnished look at the people, processes and problems inside the industry. More from the series →

To anybody working at an agency, not all clients are going to be sunshine and rainbows. For the latest in our Confessions series, where we exchange anonymity for candor, Digiday spoke with a young ad agency staffer about clients taking advantage of their agency’s time and services.

When working with clients, what is your most common feeling?
Panic, because clients are never happy. Some clients need a lot of hand-holding. It’s really difficult and sometimes feels overwhelming. You want to keep your client happy, but sometimes they just cross the line. There are certain things we are tasked with doing, and when it gets outside of that, it’s sometimes hard to know where to draw the line.

What are clients asking for that cross the line?
Sometimes they’ll ask about my thoughts on something like what platform is best, but really what they are looking for is a broader strategy, and we weren’t hired to do that. We might only work with a brand on a social media campaign on Facebook, for example, and then they come to us asking us if they should spend a certain amount on one platform over another or what platforms they should consider for another campaign that we are not working on. We are not an employee of their company. We don’t want to give them all of our ideas for free, so how do you help them without overstepping?

Why do you feel that clients feel like they can ask for more?
They think that because they are paying us all this money, they can get us to do whatever they need. And sometimes they just don’t know.

What do you mean?
I don’t think it’s malicious; they just don’t get it. Some clients act like 5-year-olds. They call at all hours of the day. You feel like you have to drop everything for them; but sometimes you just can’t. I have my email notifications on my phone because if a client needs anything at any time, you better open it because if it’s important and you didn’t get it done right away, there are questions from the client the next day. It could just be a touch-up to a social post, but if it doesn’t get done, they are not happy. They also just send us way too much material. They might send us 30 video files when we only need two, so then we have to watch 30 trailers to find the right one. I’m sure they think of us the same way, thinking like “how come our agency doesn’t understand why we have to send them 30 video files?”

How do you manage that?
We try to work with clients upfront about what is involved, but sometimes it’s hard for us and for clients to anticipate what they will need, so sometimes we leave contracts broader. But we try to be as specific as we can. In the moment, we try to control it. We tell them we have only this many hours in one day and can only take so many calls. At the end of the day, we still want to make them happy, but we have to teach them to respect us as well.

Do you feel like you have enough manpower to handle your clients?
I have three clients, so not a crazy number, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t use more help. I could have two other people working with me and still feel overwhelmed. I don’t even know how many hours I work a week because of that.

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