David Blecken
Sep 29, 2014

Treat clients as you would lovers: Ted Royer

SPIKES ASIA - Ted Royer of Droga5 began proceedings at the final day of Spikes Asia by examining the similarities between agency-client relationships and romantic bonds.

Ted Royer
Ted Royer

Royer, who is the agency’s chief creative officer, was also the Film, Print, Outdoor and Radio jury president. He invited the audience to consider a partner who asked to “date four other guys and then decide” whether to continue the relationship.

“We put up with this in advertising all the time,” he said. Royer encouraged agencies to stand up for themselves more and to cultivate a true partnership rather than that of a master and servant. His advice for doing this was:

  • Don't be afraid to say "no". Turning clients down and refusing to do things you don't agree can build more respect in the long term.
  • Ensure that you have shared goals and an understanding of each other’s expectations. For client Newcastle Brown Ale, for example, Droga5 drew up a manifesto that set the tone of the relationship from the beginning.
  • Never fail to communicate with the people who matter. Close interaction with the person at the top enables the most original work to get produced, such as this campaign for Under Armour featuring Gisele Bündchen. “This wouldn’t have happened without real communication with Kevin [Plank, Under Armour’s chief executive],” Royer said. 
  • Show respect in order to receive it. When Honeymaid complained of a lack of respect from Droga5, the meeting ended up reenergizing the relationship and giving way to a campaign that put a humble cracker at the front of a debate on what constitutes a “wholesome” family. “When brands stand up for something, people notice,” Royer added. 
  • Finally, surprise your client with unsolicited ideas. Surprises keep things fresh and show you care. “We like taking things off-brief,” Royer said. “We keep bringing more than we can produce and they feel excited that we are constantly thinking about them. It’s the same for [romantic] relationships.”

Campaign’s observation: Sound advice that is difficult to argue with. As with lovers, some things are not meant to be and eventually run their course. But anything that is worthwhile requires constant effort and understanding on both sides. It is sad to see agency-client partnerships that once produced great work fizzle out due to complacency.

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