Clients pay your wages. They may also drive you crazy. But what do they think of you? Brace yourselves…

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All design agencies rely on their ability to woo clients. Without clients, you’ve no kudos, no money, and, ultimately, no job. All too often, though, the relationships between creative agencies and their employers turn frosty. 
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Although the goal is the same for both sides – world-class creative thinking with a tidy profit thrown in – the journey is frequently fraught, often abortive, and always eventful. The culture of communication between parties can be hostile, and ultimately counter-productive. 
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All creatives have their views – and horror stories – on the subject, but what do clients really think? What do they feel about designers? The design fraternity will find the truth eye-rolling and eye-opening in equal measure. 
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One source of insight into the client’s view of the designer is the British Design Innovation (BDI) and Firedog Design’s recent survey asking agencies and clients their views on one another. The BDI is a professional body established in 1993 to encourage collaborative innovation and strategic design approaches among member groups. 
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Client respondents to its survey were marketing and procurement professionals from 23 blue-chip companies – including Tesco, BMW, Unilever, Shell, Microsoft, and British Airways. 
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BDI CEO Maxine Horn says: “It was commissioned due to the increasing number of horror stories from BDI members regarding free pitching, including tenders withdrawn after all work had been completed and agencies waiting on pitch decisions for six months or more past the submission deadline. 
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“The purpose of this research is to establish the cost of free pitching, its impact on productivity, and to highlight poor procedures.” 
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A free pitch is the process of inviting a number of agencies to respond to a brief and provide creative concepts without commitment or remuneration, where one agency is awarded the project. 
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Horn says: “The pitch process has caused much angst between agencies and client. Free pitching has given rise to inappropriate procurement procedures, unethical or whimsical pitches, poor etiquette, restriction of the creative process, barriers to relationship building, and a negative impact on productivity. 
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“When comparing the results of both surveys it’s clear there are attitudinal differences between agencies and clients towards the pitch and appointment process.” 
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Horn suggests that both parties need to improve best-practice procedures to arrive at an equally beneficial procurement process. “We wish to encourage best-practice procedures that benefit both agency and commissioning organization,” she says. 
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<h2>How to get them eating out of your hand...</h2> 
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