— On Comms Design. From London

“The client doesn’t like strategy”

Have you heard this? I have. Several times in several agencies I was working at one time or the other. The client does not like strategy so let’s not do any “strategy slides”. The client does not like strategy, he/she likes to evaluate creative and guess the strategy. The client does not like strategy so let’s not discuss metrics, brand tracking, wider objectives and focus on the creative.

When I was starting as a planner, I got all paranoid when hearing this and thought the client lead was trying to keep me from client-facing time. Later, I thought clients had the prerogative of being so in charge of their strategy that they did not need to be reminded of what it was.

It seems to me now, however, that a more insidious thing is happening and it’s not the client’s fault and not the planner’s fault and most certainly not strategy’s fault.  We are effectively misunderstanding the role of strategists.

When clients’ give off the vibe of “not liking strategy” what they do not like

is the over-rationalization of simple creative concepts to make them sound grand. Good creative ideas are just that. Good. No need to puff them up. Surprising insights, ones which challenge the category, are easily explained and you do not need a strategist to rationalize why they’re there.

What is being misunderstood here is not the relationship clients should have with strategy but the role strategy plays in delivering great comms. Strategists are not here to explain why insights were chosen or why creative was built like that. They are here to unearth insights and understand if they reframe the brand and the message in a substantial and positive way. They are here to look at the big picture and see where that insight cane come in. They are here to understand channels and propose metrics for success. They are here to be the consumer’s voice and the brand’s guides. They should be client facing when the business proposition takes only company objectives and not consumer needs into account.

If you’re using your strategist to explain great ideas to clients, then yes, your clients will not like strategy.