Throughout history, when faced by insurmountable odds, military leaders have often abandoned a key fort or city to a rapidly-approaching foe. The Russians did it with Moscow when Napoleon's Grand Armee was bearing down on their frozen capital. And, the French returned the favor in June of 1940 when the Nazis had overrun their country and were blitzkrieging their way towards Paris.
I mention these historical footnotes because I see parallels to an agency's being asked to defend an existing account. The September 14th issue of Advertising Age contains an interesting editorial urging clients to tell defending agencies the truth when putting an account up for review.
I'm not sure what specific event, or series of events, prompted the piece, but it's thoughtful and ends with the following admonition to clients: 'There is shame….in leading an agency along, watching it waste money and time in a futile effort, because you either don't yet know what you are looking for – in which case you shouldn't have called a review in the first place – or because you simply didn't have the guts to tell your current agency the truth.'
We've had some very bad experiences defending existing accounts. In almost every instance, the client assured us they were merely 'seeing what other resources might be available' and told us we had the inside edge as a result of our hands-on knowledge. Yet, we lost almost every review.
When clients put accounts up for review, they do so because they're unhappy with the status quo. Period. Defending an account seldom works and ends up hurting agency morale.
The far better approach is to take a page from the history books, declare the account an 'open city' like Moscow or Paris and allow the invading armies (or agencies, in this case) inside the walls.