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Ad Agencies Should Stop Charging Clients Up Front: Three Lessons From Jerry Maguire

by Carey Dodd  |  
April 14, 2017
  |  1,531 views

Jerry Maguire's mission statement still rings true for so many agency-client relationships. In the movie Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise plays a slick sports agent who writes a manifesto. He decries how agencies value their clients as paychecks instead of as people, and then goes on to challenge other agencies to think about the welfare of their clients.

The advertising industry was then, and is still today, self-serving. Many agencies boast about putting their clients first, but few actually do it. The industry is money-hungry, and it's driven by one-upmanship.

To be considered a top agency, you have to win awards, entering into many award categories and producing top-notch content and campaigns. And that costs money, lots of money, which is ultimately sourced from clients.

Yet, at the end of the day, those awards are not in the best interest of the client, right?

  • Will it get the client more business? Most likely not.
  • Will it get the agency new business? More than likely, yes.
  • Will the agency's staff be less involved in client projects due to award silly season? Definitely yes.

The end result is that the agency wins (literally), and the client ends up paying for it.


Perhaps it's time agencies re-evaluated their mission statements and standard operating procedures. Here are three still-relevant catchphrases from Jerry Maguire that agencies can learn from.

1. 'Show me the money!'

Undoubtedly, "show me the money!" is the most famous catchphrase from the movie. Jerry Maguire is made to shout it so that he can keep his client. Simply put, Maguire's client was interested in neither a "pie in the sky" sales pitch, nor a high-maintenance and demanding agent. Instead, he wanted results. He wanted to see money in the bank. He wanted tangible evidence that Jerry Maguire's asking price was worth it.


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Carey Dodd is marketing manager for Siren Group, a performance-based advertising agency that invests its own capital in ad campaigns. Clients pay only for agreed-upon results (CPA, CPL)—not for exposure (CPM/CPC).

LinkedIn: Carey Dodd

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  • by Ford Kanzler Fri Apr 14, 2017 via web

    Nice sentiment but seems rather naive. Its about business and in most instances when up-front payment is just a lot smarter. This is especially so with historically slow payers or when there are significant front-end or external costs. Traditional media buying policy has been, client pays first, then media is purchased. Try reversing that only if you're feeling lucky. When a client fails to pay you can be sunk. Help drive client business, certainly. But get paid for it. Making payroll on love doesn't work so well.

  • by Carey Dodd Wed May 10, 2017 via web

    @Ford - thanks for the comment. I do have to disagree with you about your statement that this is naive. The point is that the client should only have to pay for actual, real-time results. Managing debt collection is a separate operational issue. Siren Group is a performance based ad agency and have been operating based on this exact approach since 2009, and continue to do so. Partnering with their clients and investing their own capital into campaigns. Their clients only pay for agreed upon results (CPA/CPL) and not for 'exposure' (CPM/CPC). This pay-per-use payment model is prevalent in many other industries, so why shouldn't it be for digital advertising.

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