Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Is It Right for Agencies to Take the Blame When Campaigns Go Wrong?

Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Is It Right for Agencies to Take the Blame When Campaigns Go Wrong?

Article excerpt

Coca-Cola is reviewing its relationship with digital agency Lean Mean Fighting machine following the use of a pornographic-film reference in a social media promotion for its Dr Pepper brand.


Andy Nairn, Executive planning director, MCBD

Agencies should absolutely take the blame when things go wrong that are largely within their control, and that could reasonably have been foreseen beforehand. After all, there's no good us asking to be genuine business partners if we can't take responsibility for our actions.

On the other hand, most mistakes don't fall into this rather narrowly defined category: in today's collaborative workplace it's much more likely that wrong-turns are the result of shared client-agency decision-making.

In such cases, marketers cannot just pass the buck to their creative 'suppliers' - they have to face the music together. In either situation, apportioning blame is rarely the most constructive solution - far better to concentrate on fixing what went wrong, learning from the mistake and making sure it doesn't happen again.

Taking a broader view helps too - while systematic failure is clearly untenable, a one-off problem should not be allowed to sour an otherwise strong relationship.


Jon Ingall, Managing partner, Archibald Ingall Stretton

As most agency folk know, to err is human. Let's face it, we all do it from time to time.

Our clients pay us to be experts in our field, to advise them and to act in a responsible and professional manner in accordance with codes of practice. If we screw up, we have to be prepared to be up-front and honest. Maybe I've been lucky, but I've found that the majority of clients accept this in a reasonable and conciliatory manner.

On the flip side, I've also experienced the agency being blamed for something that was quite clearly not our fault. In this instance, too, you have to stand up and be counted, even if it means upsetting the status quo. We should own up to our mistakes, but we're not paid to take the blame for other people's.

However serious, it's hard to imagine any responsible client deciding to review its entire agency relationship following a single issue. More likely, the recent high-profile example was the straw that broke the camel's back.


Jo Kenrick, Brand director, Start

I really believe that a client-agency relationship is like a marriage - a well-worn analogy perhaps, but no less relevant for that. …

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