What’s The Issue Behind The Change?

I applaud Jim Morris for his column on Monday, “Fear No Music Mix” and for his letter to his client. Radio is a highly effective, yet highly misunderstood medium. It’s a shame that many in the creative department try to work their way off radio and work toward the glossy world of print or the glamour or television. We should all fight for creating radio spots that are on par with the executional sophistication as print and television (save the latest Head On commercial).

But the second to last paragraph in his column reminded me of a lesson I’d learned early in my career. Something I occasionally forget in my day-to-day endeavors. But before I mention it, let me ask a question: Have you ever joked about a client because he or she asked you to make the logo bigger or put it on top of the ad or given some other direction on how to change the ad?

While Jim was level headed in his response, I have seen quite a few tantrums. But rather than getting angry, ask yourself, “What’s the issue that he or she is trying to address?” Many people don’t like to raise problems or issue. Rather, they seek solutions. The less-than-satisfying solution comes from the fact that the client might not recognize all of the possible options or have enough time to generate all of them, so they suggest the obvious, which is usually the least effective one as well. (Of course, the client’s suggestion might be the right one.)

Then, since the solution comes from the client, it is interpreted as a dictate. But it might not be one. Clients are reasonable and want the best creative. That’s why they’ve hired you. That’s your job as a creative director, copywriter, art director, strategist, planner, or account executive. Just use the direction to develop insights into the underlying issue and work from there, because something else might be going on: For instance, in Jim’s case, the client felt that the arrangement was too dark, an issue that was easily fixed without changing the mix. And, if you’re having trouble identifying the issue behind a suggested change, ask for a call with the client.

Of course, there are clients who won’t listen. If this happens too often, my suggestion is to find another client. But when your client is willing to listen to additional options, don’t just take a change request at face value unless you completely agree with it. Your client, the brands you promote, and your portfolio deserves nothing less.

And on a final note, my apologies to Jim for co-opting his column. I probably misread your intent and the actual situation you encountered, but your words inspired mine.

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