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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > ask jancy >  My partner collaborates more with the client than with me

My partner collaborates more with the client than with me

Hey Jancy,
I’m a copywriter who’s been taken aboard by an Art Director and former co-worker to tackle a freelance project. The problem is that she seems to think the barrier to great work are old agencies and their old processes.
We don’t have an account manager, and rather than present ourselves as a cohesive unit or rehearse before client meetings she says she believes we should ‘collaborate’ and treat the client as an equal instead. As a result the client does get excited and even suggests ideas. But then she openly contradicts my recommendations or forces me to back-pedal in an attempt to appear as if I’m not contradicting hers. Quite a few times she’ll reply with advice to client emails before we’ve had a chance to sit down and decide on how to respond.
Whenever I try to bring this up she tells me not to be a stickler for the old ways and that this gets the client feeling more involved. I’m worried that this is going to end in the client losing confidence in us or worse, our work being de-valued in their eyes. Am I just being overly conservative or do I actually have ground to stand on when suggesting we present a unified front? Also, I gave my word to finish the project and don’t want to bail so what should I do to try and make this work?
Thanks, and much appreciation.

intro My partner collaborates more with the client than with meWe have found that you can get to better work in a more collaborative approach to clients than the more typical ‘us vs them’ dynamic. Many times we’ve had client ideas translate to a better end result. We encourage creative people to build client relationships with a goal of understanding the business better and especially the challenges they are up against. Clients who feel their creative team is genuinely interested and engaged also tend to more readily buy their ideas; they trust them.

However, what you describe sounds like a wrong turn. The problem isn’t as much the client collaboration as a partnership problem. The art director is not treating you as an equal. She is showing you disrespect and does risk problems with a client she’s turning to too literally as a creative partner. We suggest you sit down for a frank discussion. Play back what you’re seeing and the problems you’re anticipating with the client. Most importantly, draw the line on treatment that’s not acceptable to you as a writer partner to her. “United front” is important, and so is respect. Insist on it.

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About Jancy

'Jancy' is Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk, Co-Founders of Swim, a unique “creative leadership training lab for advertising creatives and marketers.” Prior to Swim, Jancy was globally renowned as the Co-Chief Creative Officers of Ogilvy & Mather Toronto, a position they held for thirteen of the twenty years they were a creative duo at the agency. Over the years they've racked up Cannes Lions, Clios, One Show pencils and CA credits, and have lead their shop to two Cannes Lions Grand Prix and a Grand Clio. They've judged CA, Cannes, D&AD, the One Show, the Clios and other prestigious award shows. Creativity named them two of the top 50 creative people of 2008. Known for their outspoken, no-bullshit style and a passion for mentoring juniors, they're ready to give you advice if you're ready to take it.

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