Why creative agencies need a sex change to win business

The advertising world has always been adept at harnessing the differing characteristics of men and women to sell brands more effectively. However, when it comes to selling themselves, agencies show little understanding of how gender differences might assist their own new business process. They could start by examining the male and female approach to courtship.

Consider the courtship process of The Man. He probably always wears the same clothing, gleaned from his rather limited wardrobe. The conversation is probably rather samey too – largely about himself, paying little attention to the person he’s with, other than an obvious fixation on how he would like the evening to end up. The man will no doubt also rely on his wit and wisdom to charm his intended partners, most of whom will be told the same stock joke at some point. 

The Woman, however, will be much more attentive to her surroundings and company. She will have an extensive wardrobe – possibly several wardrobes – and have spent hours considering what combination of shoes, hair, bag, lipstick, accessories and attire would be most appropriate. Unlike the man, she will listen, and tailor her conversation accordingly. For her, the journey will be as much fun as the destination, and that will come across favourably.

I started thinking about how agencies behave like men after a chat with my old friend Kevin May, founder of Sticks. That conversation was in connection with how brands deal with consumers. But I think it’s the agencies that need a sex change.

In our work helping brands to identify and select fresh agency talent, there is a horrible pattern to some of the early dealings between agencies and prospective clients. It’s the man pattern. It doesn’t work very well.

Only a man would think a potential partner would like to hear about his former girlfriends, and the wonderful times they had together. Yet Agencies seem to think that a big list of case studies is a great start to winning new business.

How much better to start with asking questions – and listening? An agency recently came to a ‘chemistry’ meeting armed with a set presentation; the one they “always give”, because “it’s a winner”. The client told the CEO to skip the standard credentials, as she’d seen them before, so what did he do? He ignored it, and carried on, and they got knocked out of the process.

I could give you a hundred other examples, in which agencies have pitched like a man, but would have done so much better to think like a woman.

If you run an agency, I would urge you get in touch with your feminine side and give your new business process a sex change before it’s too late.

Shaun Varga, Chairman and Creative Director, Ingenuity

  • raymond wong

    well said…client prospects have seen and heard all about what an agency can do…indeed agencies should be daring enough to tell the prospect what they should be doing…lets be honest, it is about their business, not ours…it is about their money, not ours…btw, i suppose having a female team doing the sell could help too…yes ,skip our standard case studies,do one on the prospective client instead…doe not matter if it is right or wrong.

Campaign Jobs