I've got a friend who met his wife in a brothel.
Oh, don't worry - it wasn't his idea. It was his financial adviser's. (He takes him everywhere).
Anyway, the financial adviser knew a brothel where the Madam would listen really closely to my friend’s requirements. And she did! Sure enough, a string of specially selected beauties paraded themselves in front of my pal and his financial adviser (I told you he takes him everywhere), each promising ‘a really good time’ with ‘guaranteed results’.
There were one or two who caught my friend’s eye, but neither of them made it to the ‘second round’ that his financial adviser insisted on. Eventually, worn down and just wanting to get some ‘business’, one of the women in particular slashed her hourly rates.
That woman is now my friend’s wife.
Except she’s not.
Of course she’s not. Because everyone reading this knows that the process described above, as well as being deeply unsavoury in almost every respect, is also exceptionally unlikely to engender the type of long-term relationship that underpins a successful marriage.
Yet the process described above is almost identical to that which many corporations go through, when supposedly looking for a ‘long-term relationship’ with an agency.
The ‘financial adviser’ above is the corporate procurement department, albeit with fewer certificates and even more spreadsheets. Procurement takes every spending decision as an opportunity to muscle in and treat everything as if it were paperclips; a transaction for goods, and nothing more.
And the ‘Madam’ is the intermediaries, wheeling out the agencies to do the business version of ‘tits and teeth’. Deliciously Orwellian, outwardly they display apparent magnanimity. But the reality, as every ‘working girl’ knows, is a different story. Behind the scenes, fierce control is exercised by their man on the inside; a particular breed of lickspittle ‘New Business Director’ whose very existence (as little more than a – highly opinionated – mailbox) depends on the continued hegemony of his intermediary masters.
This ugly, Faustian symbiosis ensures that the Gollum-like New Business Director jealously guards the ‘preciousssss’ process, whilst mandating that his pitch-weary colleagues line up again to go to ever-greater extremes to win over the prospect.
Corporations are, of course, welcome to seek counsel from whomever they like, when looking for a partner. It’s a free market, they are the clients and can and should enjoy the concomitant privileges. And god only knows that the agencies are their own worse enemies.
But all these layers? All these people? They’re not adding value. In fact, they are destroying value, for both corporation and agency. Their involvement, and the resultant adversarial tone from-the-off, demeans everyone; and inhibits delivery of the results that spell success for both parties.
And so many client-side marketers know this. The overwhelming majority of corporate marketers that I meet are confident, pleasant, and very smart. They know which agencies do what, they know how to get in touch with them and they also know how to extract maximum value from them. So why do they allow these third parties into the mix? Certainly, history does not accept ‘it’s difficult’ as a reason for not doing the right thing.
Corporate marketers – this is your Yazz moment:
Stand up for your love rights.
Because where true mutuality, the cornerstone of all successful relationships, is not allowed to grow, you won’t end up in a long-term relationship.
You’ll end up fucked.
Nick Jefferson is a partner at advisory firm, Monticello LLP.