A client calls with an assignment. As usual, the deadline is tight. With no time to lose, you spring into action, gathering background material, organizing a team, developing a scope of work, a budget, a schedule, and any other item you need to brief a team and initiate work.
In that initial frenzy of activity, don't forget to ask your client, “What do you want this advertising to do?” It seems so obvious, and yet it's so easy to overlook.
You need to begin every client relationship, and every client advertising effort, with a clear understanding of what the client wants to achieve. Be sure to ask about the business goals, the sales goals, and the communication goals. Ask about the response the client wants from the key constituencies: customers, prospects, employees, company management, shareholders, the press, and the competition. How will the agency be evaluated? What will success look like, and can we accomplish it?
I'm all for clients having lofty aspirations, and for pushing agencies to achieve them, but you should encourage your clients to set goals that are in line with reality. On more than one occasion my clients have set objectives that were all but impossible to meet. A situation like this can turn success into failure, in which the problem isn't that the advertising fell short, but that the goal was too tall. This is something to discuss, and agree on, at the outset. This is not something you want to argue about after the fact.