The Good Client And The Bad Client

Over at Small Agency Diary, Phil Johnson of PJA Advertising & Marketing tackles the topic of why good clients are good and bad clients are bad.

I’ve always heard agency people complain about clients who treat them badly. My attitude has been “Why should we get special treatment?” Have you ever watched a tenure battle in academia, or a turf battle in a multibillion-dollar corporation? How about the Democratic primary? It gets nasty.
The more interesting question may be: “Is there anything unique about agency people that attracts a specific flavor of ire from clients?”
I’ve got two theories. First, a large percentage of the business world thinks that advertising and all of its assorted cousins are a pseudo profession, something anyone can choose to pursue if he wants. It’s the opposite of plumbing, or medicine, where people understand that there is a set of skills that they don’t possess but need. (Hey, I didn’t say it was true.) Second, large corporate structures breed and allow a level of bad behavior that would be unacceptable in almost any other social environment. That’s a toxic combination.
Here’s how I summarize my approach to the dilemma: There are nice people and there are mean people in the world. Stay away from the mean ones. I confess to a spotty record, but I can also say that with some good fortune I’ve stumbled into a collection of clients that I love.

He makes lots of good points.
But one he leaves out, or maybe it’s just me. I’d work much harder on behalf of a nicer, respectful client than for an abusive, condescending one. Would you?
Or try this: Have you ever had a demanding client who acted that way in order to make the work truly better?



About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.