OPINION: The Big Question - Can clients benefit if someone works on their account for over 20 years?

Creative director Steve Gebbett is stepping down from BSMG after a

career spanning 30 years. He held many of his client accounts for 25

years or more.

JAMES WARREN - Bullet Online

'Steve Gebbett was working in PR before I was a glint in my father's eye

- a concept I find rather disconcerting. Like all the best arguments

there are two sides. On one hand, a PRO would know the client, its

products and industry inside out. He/she would also have incredible

contacts, both on the client side and within the media. How-ever, in an

industry that thrives on creativity, trends and new ideas, I cannot

fathom how a PRO could maintain freshness, innovation and objectivity

over such a long period of time. I fear that in today's youth-obsessed,

channel-hopping, information-rich and internet-powered PR world, we'll

never see the like again.'


'Perhaps only the person employed on the agency side! While clients need

fresh thinking, continuity helps too. Twenty-five years on one client

seems excessive for both sides. The exception being if your role has

developed to being a 'statesman-like' knowledge controller. This can

work if guidelines are set and other colleagues are allowed to

demonstrate their own creativity without 'old-time egos' getting in the

way. Fortunately, in a previous life I experienced the benefits of

working with a colleague who had 25 years on a client's business - I was

encouraged to develop new territories and take the clients' business

down new avenues. Rare, but true!'


'To have the same clients for over 20 years requires you to be good at

managing client relationships. When I worked in the BBC news and current

affairs department, I subscribed to the view that political lobby

correspondents should get out of Westminster and do tours of duty

elsewhere because they would get too close. The relationship was in

danger of becoming too cosy. Correspondents resisted it on the grounds

that they knew the process, they knew the procedures and they knew the

people. Longevity of tenure can clearly provide certainty at times of

uncertainty and a wealth of knowledge built up over the years. There are

times, however, when risk is required, a fresh idea injected into the

proceedings and a different perspective shone on the issues. Fulfilling

those criteria and keeping the client for all those years - perhaps

Steve should patent it.'


'On balance - yes. It depends on how adept you are when it comes to each

succeeding year's creative proposals for the client. An in-depth

knowledge of the client's marketplace positioning, culture and

predilections is always, I've found, an invaluable foundation for true

creative consultancy. Building brand loyalty is a long-term affair. It

cannot be done overnight. The trouble is, I often feel like an opening

batsman who has run out of partners - as the client personnel seem to

move on every two or three months, far more regularly than their trusty

agency team! Still, if you can't beat them, so they say, join them .

I'm joining them for tea in the pavilion.'

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