Client Horror Stories Agencies Can Relate To

When it comes to the client-agency relationship, we all know it can be a love-hate story. Love the money that comes with the account, but hate the challenges of client-management. C’mon, don’t deny it. Here’s the thing: clients and agencies need one another, and wouldn’t it be great to have a healthy ecosystem going on?

Unfortunately, when it comes to creative work, client feedback can come across as vague and inconsistent. Ever heard of the expression “I wish I can draw on the screen”? Luckily, that exists now. Imagine the feedback emails that ping pong between client and agency just to get the size of a logo right.

Let’s face it, creative work is subjective, and clients and agency execs don’t exactly see eye-to-eye all the time. While there is no doubt that there are heaps of really amazing clients out there, let’s not deny the fact that there are some horror clients no agency wants to deal with. Here are some terrifying stories by agency execs who have fallen into the Bermuda triangle of client expectations and STILL lived to tell the tale. Can you relate?

The big pitch

“A few years ago, my agency was invited to a big pitch for a rebranding job. We spent weeks on research, brand development and creative work. At the pitch, there were about five agencies going for the same job. We presented our proposal and felt incredibly confident but a few days later, we received an email saying that they had decided to proceed internally. Five months later, the client launched a national campaign and guess what? It was OUR campaign proposal.”

Just when you thought it was over

“We were so happy when the website design reached the GM who was supposed to give us the final approval. But before we could celebrate, he said, ‘I love it but can you just save the website as a PDF so everyone here can review and comment before it goes live?’”

Forget the brief

Client: No matter what, I want us to stick to the brief.
Agency: OK, here’s the design.
Client: Hmm, can we make this smaller, that bigger, and change the colours?
Agency: But that’s not what the brief says…
Client: It’s ok the brief isn’t relevant right now

Just show me

“We had this cheap AF client but didn’t mind working with them because they had a great brand. But when we wanted to charge them for a newsletter design, this is what they said: ‘I don’t have the budget to hire you guys. But do you mind just showing me how? We’ll do it in-house.’”

Same but different

“So we went into the client meeting with ideas and suggestions but what the client said next really turned us off: ‘Can you copy my competitor’s brochure exactly, but make it different?’”

Shades of Grey

“‘Can you make the black slightly lighter? Not grey though, just a lighter black.’ When I heard this, I couldn’t decide whether to cry or laugh.”

The same style

“My client’s attempt at art direction: ‘Why can’t you just use all the styling from my PowerPoint slide? I mean, it’s all there.’” *slow clap*

Make it fun

“I want this website to look friendly. So can you just use Comic San?”

How late

This was a conversation I had with a client who accused us of not meeting the deadline.
Client: Hi, you said you were going to send the revised version by 5pm yesterday. We were waiting for it.
Agency: What time did you send the request?
Client: 4.55pm
Agency: Err…


“This client wanted to save money so badly, she asked, ‘Would there be a discount if I design it first in Paint?’”

Thanks but no thanks

“I was just flabbergasted when the client said, ‘I’ve just contracted another designer to work on your designs. Can you just send me all your working files?’”

Do any of these sound familiar? Share your horror story with us in the comments. Yes, we know you want to!

If you have clients speaking in codes, try Userback! It’s a visual feedback tracking tool for all web projects at any stage of development from concept to dev to live. Users can draw on the screen and comment their suggestions. How cool is that? Make it easier for your team to manage, assign and close feedback. Most importantly, get accurate feedback so you can spend less time on revisions and more on strategy and creativity.

Try it!

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