AgencyLand has always struggled to know what to do when they’d really like to work with two businesses in the same category. Do they decide that they’re cars or house building specialists and work with lots of brands in that sector – or do they decide that would be a conflict and only work with one?
To be honest, I think clients often make this decision for themselves, choosing to work with an agency with no conflicting clients, which can make your pitch list rather short if you’re a car brand that wants to blow a couple of million pounds on making an ad as there’s only a handful of agencies big/good enough to do the job. Or they follow their industry peers to the acknowledged sector expert, with Healthcare and Financial Services appearing to be some of the areas where brands are less fussy about being stable mates with some kind of competitor.
But even as a freelance I have Conflict problems. I’ve had to run out of offices with my fingers in my ears at Agency B when people start talking about progress on the rostered agency pitch I’m already working with Agency A on. And I recently had to turn down rebranding a regional retail foodie chain for one agency as I was already working on a practically identical national retail foodie chain for another.
But then again I don’t have a problem with, say simultaneously working on two different projects for the same supermarket at two different agencies. I think I draw the line at the point where the up-to-date information I know about client A would give me an unfair advantage working on client B, or (as has happened several times), I’m already working on the same pitch for another agency.
I remember my previous agency bosses approaching potential client conflicts with confident statements like “well it will be a nice problem to have”, “we’ll deal with that when we get to it” and mutterings about Chinese Walls. But I guess the acid test comes down to asking ourselves are we doing right by ourselves, our existing clients and the potential new client? If you get three yesses back, then fire away. If not, I foresee conflict on the horizon.