Question everything: Giacomelli

Marc GiacomelliCreative DirectorRobins Sharpe AssociatesQ. What does it take to be an agent of change?A. I think anybody can be an agent of change. You just have to be open to changing yourself.In advertising, that means having a lack of ego,...

Marc Giacomelli

Creative Director

Robins Sharpe Associates

Q. What does it take to be an agent of change?

A. I think anybody can be an agent of change. You just have to be open to changing yourself.

In advertising, that means having a lack of ego, so that you don’t have one particular style or one particular point of view or one pat solution.

When it comes down to working with clients, you should be able to present multiple solutions, and that’s not just creatively, that’s media-wise, that’s target group-wise.

I think you have to question the original premise. Why do you want to advertise in the newspaper as opposed to direct mail? Why do you want to advertise at all? Essentially, it’s questioning everything.

Q. How has the client-supplier relationship changed over the past couple of years?

A. It’s changed drastically and I think there are two sides to it.

One is the agency has actually become a supplier. Simply that. Someone says I need 10 bricks. You deliver 10 bricks. Some clients don’t want any more than that.

The second way it’s changed is the total opposite to that. Which is, ‘Give me your advice on my advertising, on my product, tell me what stores I should be in.’ You basically become a partner or the marketing department for a client.

I don’t have a preference. It’s recognizing which client is which and doing the best job for both.

Q. When you enter a relationship with a client, how do you determine just how open they are to supplier-initiated change?

A. If you are an agent of change, you go in with a single goal, either you come first or come last. That you never lose a piece of business because you’re in the middle.

So you go in with your honest thinking, however outrageous or radical it may be. Either give me the business, or throw me out of your office. If they accept your proposal, you know they want what you have to offer.

Q. How important to the process of change is understanding your client’s business?

A. I don’t think it’s that important. You have to generally understand your client’s business. But an advertiser’s job is not to understand his client’s business, but to understand his own business – communication.

Over the last 20 years, agencies have pretended to be experts at the client’s business, or thought that was key, when, in fact, they have lost the respect of the client because they are not experts at communication.

Understanding the client’s business is a bogus premise. The client is an expert at his business, you are an expert at your business, and your joint business is to solve the problem.

Q. How do you stay on top of trends in your field?

A. Again, it’s not that important.

If you accept that change is the way of life, the natural course of things, those things will be perfectly evident to you.

Otherwise, advertising becomes a very studied exercise in what’s new. And that certainly doesn’t have anything to do with change. It has to do with bad advertising.

Because you know about it, doesn’t mean that you should jump on the creative bandwagon. What’s new, by the time it becomes new, is not new anymore.

Q. What would be your advice to clients who have expressed dissatisfaction with their suppliers’ willingness and ability to initiate change?

A. I guess the simple advice would be fire your supplier.

The client and supplier have to challenge each other to change. As a client, you have to be open to change already. More clients are, than not.

And if, in fact, you are an expert in communication and marketing, you should be able to present change and sell it.

I don’t think clients should have to ask for it. If you are going to sit around and complain about your clients, you’ve got an internal problem, not a problem with your client.