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Gillian Rightford launches Adtherapy

Gillian Rightford, former group MD of Lowe Bull, today, Wednesday, 5 September 2007, announced the launched of her new company, Adtherapy. Billed as a “communication and management consultancy”, Adtherapy offers just what its name implies – therapy for advertising – and its prescriptions are designed to make bottom lines healthier, and businesses happier.

The company focuses on improving the relationships between advertising agencies and their clients, aiming to enhance skills and understanding on both sides with a final objective of “better skills, better relationship, better results”.

“I talk to a lot of agencies and a lot of clients, and the notion that both sides relate most strongly to their relationship is ‘lack of understanding',” says Rightford, whose background is a mix of marketing, advertising, and management. She obtained a Business Science (Honours) degree in Marketing from UCT, and began her career in marketing as a consultant for Perry & Associates. Thereafter, she made her way into advertising, working in the account management and strategic fields. She was soon appointed MD of Hercules/DMB&B/D'Arcy, and then group MD of Lowe Bull.

Communication audit

Adtherapy aims to address this by conducting a communication audit, followed by an assessment of skills in both the agency and the client marketing teams. Based on this, the company will set key benchmarks and propose and implement a skills development and training strategy with the ultimate aim of improving understanding – and in the process, the relationship – on each side of the fence.

“Marketers spend millions of rands on advertising, it's important that they ensure their money is being well-spent. If the brief is bad from the outset, or the agency/client relationship has deteriorated to such an extent that the agency no longer cares about the output, the end product will suffer,” Rightford explains.

“And that end product, the output of this complex relationship, is the brand's public face and personality, the means by which the brand makes friends, makes sales and makes money.

“Great advertising helps generate great results. And great advertising is without exception the result of a great relationship.”

Key part

A key part of Adtherapy's mission is helping clients to better manage their ‘creative resources', to understand that the procurement of a creative ‘product' is not as simple as the procurement of paper clips. On the flip side of the coin, it will also help agencies understand the business side of their clients' business.

Sadly, many agencies believe clients abuse them, and many clients feel that dealing with their agency is the worst part of their job.

“This type of behaviour on both sides of the relationship is self defeating. The worse you treat your creative partner, the less inclined they will be to give you, your brand and your business their best. And the worse you treat your client, the more tortuous the creative process becomes, the less inclined they will be to work with you in future. It's a vicious cycle.

“The abuse of power ultimately leads to diminishing returns on both sides of the equation,” she says.

The controversial pitch process is also firmly in her sights: “I have no doubt that the audit process will throw up clients and agencies who simply shouldn't be together – through a misalignment of values, culture, goals or competencies. Often, these mismatched relationships are the result of a poorly-managed pitch in the first place.”

Best to part ways

Rightford believes that, in some instances, it's best for client and agency to part ways. But first prize for Adtherapy is to mend the existing relationship.

“There is so much investment and knowledge capital in the current relationship – from the agency's understanding of the client market, competitors, consumers, even their Purchase Order systems. It is disruptive, and potentially a huge compromise to client confidentiality, to move agencies,” says Rightford.

Often, she adds, clients move agencies only to experience the same scenarios, because no one has taken the trouble to identify the real problem – and that can just as easily lie in client behaviour as in agency behaviour.

“For those clients that do need to find new partners, a proper evaluation of what they want and need, plus the drawing up of a very short-list, and a series of intelligent discussions should be enough to find a new partner for the right reasons: the potential for a great partnership, not the showbiz on the day,” Rightford concludes.

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