Say readers of this blog.

I asked a couple of clients of my acquaintance to defend themselves. Here's what "Anonymous Female Client" said:

So clients are to blame according to a poll amongst advertising there's a surprise!

In reality I think everyone's a little bit to blame when an ad goes wrong, but to even out the scores I'm
going to vote for account management.

Account management is one of the most undervalued roles in an agency. You have to be a revolving ball - representing the client to creative and creative to the client. They have to be a mediator and negotiator. They have to communicate and provide the clarity which prevents the need for compromise on either side later on (when it is often too late). It's not an easy job. But I would say that poor account management skills are often to blame when ads don't turn out the way you want them to be.

And this is what an account-man turned client known as "Boggy" had to say:
Planners always take the credit when a campaign has been proven to be effective (but then it's them who's collated all the evidence), so you could argue that they should take the rap when it is ineffective.  If only it was that easy.

Each department has a different role in the ad process. The thing is, ineffective advertising can come if any part of that process breaks down.  Creatives can seduce teams and clients into buying the wrong creative, planners can deliver the wrong strategy, account men can fail to protect the idea from worried clients, and clients can get any part of their bit wrong at any stage.  The trouble is, its easy for creatives to blame clients, because ultimately it's they who buy the work, or fail to buy the obviously brilliant idea that they should have bought.  

In an ideal world, clients should get the work they deserve - brave clients should get great work and dull clients get crap work.  We all know, however, that that is rarely the case.  Plenty of brave clients have been sold short by poor work, and supposedly dull clients have had very effective work (Cillit Bang anyone?).

Long answer to say that there is no one culprit, but perhaps a plea for agencies to understand a bit better the pressure a client is under buying work. 

The process most commonly breaks down when the client doesn't trust the agency.  That can be because he loses faith in the creative, or disagrees with the strategy, or feels that the agency is just interested in awards/glory, or because under time pressure, the battle lines become drawn when there is no time to debate the issues or search for alternative approaches.

Clients often ask for alternatives to give them confidence that there will be at least a viable solution, whereas agencies always want the one perfect solution.  This creates tension, and this can cause the trust/faith to break down.  If agencies accepted the reality of the need for alternatives, and managed the situation from that reality, then they could probably avoid clients forcing the wrong solution due to fear..  Also, creatives should learn to talk to clients as partners in the process, and not the enemy - this will help build the trust/faith/understanding!

My own view? I don't blame account management that much. Yes, maybe sometimes they fail to sell a great campaign. But not often. I think creatives like to believe that everything they come up with is brilliant. It isn't.

Clients sometimes play things too safe, and buy the more conservative of two routes, or water work down, so that it ends up being too boring for consumers to be interested in. So they must take some blame too.

But the group that must shoulder the most blame, in my opinion, is the Planners. And surely this is fair? Effectiveness is their explicit responsibility. And it is the strategy that makes the work work, or not work (the power of the creative acts as a kind of amplifier, in most categories).

Sorry, Planners.

I still love you.