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Jon Flacke
by Jon Flacke
Dec 12, 2014
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BMA Luncheon (in outer space)

This week BMA Colorado and the Denver Ad Club joined up to host a holiday luncheon and industry Panel at the Warwick Hotel downtown.  The event, aptly titled “Clients are from Mars; Agencies are from Venus,” brought together industry leaders from both sides of the equation for what turned out to be a pretty intriguing conversation.

Glenn Thayer (@glennthayer), a standard host for BMA events (and so much more), performed typically – creating a space for captivating conversation and unobtrusive audience participation. The audience used a cool new (to me), web-based app to submit questions and answer polls during the event. The system, called Conference i/o, is an audience response system with some interesting features. The audience could anonymously ask questions to the panel, while other audience members could see questions popping up in real time and vote them up or down. I found it to be an interesting way to encourage audience participation without interrupting the flow.

The expert panel was just that, experienced professionals with noteworthy résumés – each of which brought valid and thought provoking material to the table.

David Duncan - CMO, Webroot Software
John Winsor - CEO, Victors & Spoils
Jeff GrahamPartner Account, Grenadier
David Craven - VP Brand Marketing, Qdoba

One comment in particular stuck with me during and after the panel: “Instead of trying to resolve the tension between the new and the old, embrace it.” The words ‘innovation’ and ‘disrupt’ are thrown around fairly liberally these days.  Every company wants to innovate, wants to be the AirBnB or Uber of their industry. There’s something to be said for playing between the lines, for not just discarding what was and moving on to what’s next. Embracing the usefulness in the new and the old, the juxtaposition of the two, or the aspects of each complimenting the other has so much more value.

In summary of the conversation, it was truly apparent that both clients and vendors were most interested in honesty from their counterparts, in creating a relationship where both entities understand each other’s business models and objectives. A recurring theme from the conversation seemed to be that it’s not just that clients should be selective of which vendors they are working with – but that vendors should be selective as well. Don’t try to be more than you are, don’t try to sell what you don’t have, and certainly don’t get involved in marketing strategies you’re not prepared to or willing to risk executing.

It’s easy to sit back and blame problems on whichever entity is “the other side.” When things go wrong, or at least don’t go right, it’s the agencies failed execution; it’s the client’s lack of vision.  More probably, and definitely according to the luncheon’s panel, it’s a failure of the partnership, a failure of understanding and commitment.

And of course, in the end it turns out that both clients and agencies are from right here on earth – with much more in common than either typically lets on.