The relationship between the client and the agency can get complicated. Any time two experts collaborate, there are going to be some growing pains. At its best, it’s Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. At it’s worst, it’s Kobe Bryant.
Not a basketball fan? I’ll keep going.
Jordan and Pippen were number one and two on arguably the best team the NBA has ever seen. The Chicago Bulls dominated the 90s and no team has been able to match the kind of success they’ve had. Between 1991 and 1998 they won six NBA championships with two 3-peats. They were the best.
And Jordan took a majority of the glory, sure. But he knew he couldn’t do it without Pippen. He knew that teamwork was what ultimately made him look great. He was talented, but he wasn’t a champion without his team. And the team was great without him.
When he famously left basketball in 1993-94 season, Pippen lead the Bulls to a 55 win season - the third best record in the entire NBA that year. They weren’t champions without Jordan, but they could have been. He came back the next year and the team went back to being champions, so we’ll never know what they would have done, but they weren’t dead in the water without Jordan.
Bryant, on the other hand, is a one man show. His career is phenomenal, but he’s tainted by the fact that he couldn’t work with other greats. One by one, the Lakers would bring in NBA legends from Shaquille O'Neal to Steve Nash and they couldn’t work with Bryant. O’Neal and Bryant played on the same team for a similar amount of time that Jordan and Pippen played together, but they only won three championships together.
Granted, it was a 3-peat and they were amazing, but they could have been so much more were it not for Bryant and his inability to work together with other legends.
And now, with Bryant retiring, the Lakers are in shambles. They’ll need years before they get great again.
What does any of this mean to you? It's a gigantic warning sign for you and your agency. Both the agency and the client have to decide to be Jordan and Pippen instead of building on the back of one Kobe Bryannt. Work together instead of one side dictating the course to the team.
Brands, use your agency as experts at their craft. And agencies, understand that your clients are the experts on their story. It’s only in the collaboration of both sides that anything great will happen.
When 10 smart people with 10 smart plans stand in a room and try to pick the best one, there are definitely going to be disagreements. But why would you avoid the disagreements so that one person can always be the leader? Why would you want to work with someone who only uses a single path of execution?
You need people who will demand the best out of you and not accept what you had time for in that project. You need people who will push you to try something outside of what has always worked. Both sides need the other to listen, to critique and support. And sometimes that means you lose.
Sometimes that means that amazing design you made really doesn’t make sense. And it’s beautiful and should see the light of day, but won’t. And sometimes that means not putting your logo on everything you release, because the strategy is stronger without a hard sell.
In those disagreements, each side has to step back and think about what the team is trying to accomplish. If you’ve picked the right agency, they’re concerned with how to win championships, not who wins the MVP award. And if you’ve picked the right clients, you know that they’ll give you the ball every time you have the shot.