THINKING ON A BICYCLE: She just isn’t that into you

By Jonte Goldwater

He was fuming, and he did not hold back. This was beyond acceptable, he said. “Don’t you know who I am”. After he had left, our lovely receptionist painted the entire picture for me. I was an idiot, but he was a bigger one.

This was my first real job and reflecting now, I am inclined to believe the current thinking that males’ brains don’t fully develop until they’re in their 30s. It’s amazing as I look back, that the only thing I took from that encounter was that he was the only one who was an idiot.

I was entirely at fault, but I was also wholly wrapped up in both myself and the demands of a job that I was struggling to come to terms with. He was the head of an agency, and I was a junior client. While I attended my double-booked meeting, he had waited in our reception for a good 30 minutes after a reasonably long drive to get out to us. Not good.

We all have bad days, and everyone has a lot on their plate. Still, the big difference between agency and client is that the agency’s business is the consumer and the client. In contrast, the client's business is the consumer and their business itself. And when I talk about the client, I mean the marketing team. This is a marketing team operating as a cog in a big wheel that geared with multiple moving parts on numerous levels.

Most of my career has been client-side, and mostly in large multinationals in various parts of the world. I have lived every day with the pushing and the pulling while we walked the tightrope between long term consumer benefit and short-term practicalities.

We walked the tightrope between long term consumer benefit and short-term practicalities.

Now that I am agency side, I see a different view. This is a view that has the client in full-frame, front and centre. We are consumer-focused, but our world is very much rotating around our clients. We work hard and we hope that everything we do is a ‘best bit’ in our client’s world. The only problem is that our single-minded brand-focused world is not always lined up with what our clients have to deal with on a daily basis.

Let’s take the example of the fictious Clare, a client with a hundred things to do and zero bandwidth.

It is the start of the week and a few of her team have pulled up sick. Perfect.

On top of this, Clare is running into the end of the year, and HR are chasing her for the performance planning updates. This is starting to get quite tight.

We may be at the end of the financial year, and all the brand plans have been signed off and tucked away, but that final piece surrounding channel planning, sales activation and pricing still is hanging around.

While this is all happening the end of month reviews are due to her for review before heading upstairs for pre-reading in advance of the SLT meetings.

Finance send through an email requesting an urgent meeting as the projections and the cost story on the gate-paper for one the innovation programs is not adding up and won't pass the gate criteria. Say hello to reviewing the top-down and bottom-up builds alongside the CAPEX and OPEX calculations.

Partway through trying to get all these pieces fitting into her week, Clare gets a call from her agency. She can tell they are a bit frustrated because the critical meeting to sign-off the latest creative iteration has been pushed back now twice and they point out that this must get resolved asap – everything depends on it.

Believe me, from where Clare is sitting, everything does not depend on it.

This isn’t a parable on behaviours and being a good person, but rather an appreciation for what happens on the other side of the fence. And acknowledgement that we cross over with about 5% of what happens on that side of the fence.