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Cannes Creative Leaders Programme

What Can We Learn from Strong Client Relationships?

April 5, 2019

As we approach another jam-packed nine-day learning experience at the Cannes Creative Leaders Programme this June, we’re looking back on the key topic that made last year’s program so rewarding. Client / agency relationships were top of our list in 2018, and we explored key areas such as the importance of transparency, value-capture and creation, the changing agency landscape and more. To recap, we spoke to 2018 CCLP participant and Executive Creative Director at Ogilvy Pakistan, Zehra Zaidi, who has been building a successful and cherished relationship with her client at Coca-Cola for over five years. Zehra filled us in on some of the fundamental lessons she’s learned through this partnership, the two-pronged approach to media in Pakistan, and her key take-aways from last years’ Cannes experience.


Last year’s Cannes Creative Leaders Programme focussed around client-centric thinking. What is the importance of strong client relationships from a commercial and creative perspective?

As a creative lead for my account, I can vouch for the fact that a strong relationship with the client can actually lay the foundation of the great work that a creative person wants to do for their brand. A relationship built on great partnership with the client will not only generate more business for the agency but also helps creatives feel more empowered to have a say and stakes in the work that goes out under the agency’s name.


The creative industries are driven by constant change which can cause uncertainty and put pressure on clients’ priorities. What kind of changes have you noticed in clients’ needs over that past few years?

The biggest change is the evolution of technology itself. The shift from TV to digital platforms has changed the priorities for clients. In our country, we are still in a state of transition where we’re still shifting to digital that makes our communication approach two-pronged: One for those who have moved on to digital and then one for those that are still using traditional mediums. There are challenges sometimes when a call has to be made on a particular medium and weighing out the pros and cons. Especially when digital requires a different mindset, approach, and target audiences.


How is this affecting the role of the agency?

The agency has to be more research-based, for one. The need for each communication and the clarity of objectives has to be more spelled out just to make the deliverable more target-centric. 


You’ve spoken about your strong partnership with your client, Coca Cola. What makes what is the cornerstone of your success together and what lessons have you learned from your relationship?

Client / agency relationships actually go hand in hand in leading to good or bad work. One cannot do great work without a great client who trusts their creative or agency well enough to sometimes get uncomfortable and let them lead the brand communication. This trust comes out of collaboration with the client and faith in the agency. Personally, I try and invest a lot of time to understand both; my brand as well as my client. I have always tried to use the Ogilvy network to attain knowledge of the Coca-Cola brand from different markets on my own so that sometimes even I can be a source of information for my client. All clients, I feel, need agility, responsiveness and partnership. Today, when we win awards there is no one, even myself, who can say that this purely ‘my idea’. The collaboration and partnership gets us the result. Always.


Finally, can you tell us one highlight from your CCLP experience? How has this influenced your approach to client relationships since the programme?

CCLP was amazing. On the risk of sounding a bit cliché I have been advocating it to my peers and colleagues simply just for the reason that it opens up your mind completely. Breaking away from my unbelievably crazy schedule to concentrate on the academics and stepping back to get a clean perspective of what I’ve been doing day-to-day was an eye-opener. Getting to hear real work issues from the best in the industry to explain how they resolved it was something else as well. I found out that no work issue is country-specific. In one way or the other ‘advertising and marketing’ brings a similar baggage of problems, globally. 



This year’s CCLP, curated by our academic experts, is an intensive nine-day programme collecting and connecting the dots between Creative Leadership, Brand Culture and Organizational Design, and Client-Centricity. Make the most of your Cannes Lions experience, by combining an immersive four-day classroom experience prior to the main festival, a full-week VIP pass, additional, exclusive closed-door sessions with top industry leaders, and more. Full program details.