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One of our largest and oldest clients (20+ years) has tasked us with being fully accountable for final design approval of their graphics in addition to owning the release of final art files to printers. In a nutshell, they will provide the approved assets/images, copy/claims and part numbers and then expect us to assemble the layouts with the correct information -- without their approval on the designs themselves. I've never worked with a client that did not want to be the final sign off on their own materials!?
This increased accountability requires adding more layers and people to constantly proof and reproof during the concept to execution/print process. Ultimately, they expect us to be liable for any printed mistakes once the graphics are in market. They assert that their operations team currently spends too much time reviewing our work and no longer has the capacity to provide final approvals. Furthermore, they claim they will approve the printer proofs against our final designs, which makes no sense since they will not have approved the original graphics. At this point, we should review the printer proofs as well, not the client.
We have never had a contract with this client and have worked project by project the entire 20+ years. These demands seem unreasonable, especially since they will not pay for the additional service or time, however, the reality is they will find someone who will meet their needs if we do not.
Bottom line, the client is holding us fully accountable for their work and the agency will be responsible for all graphic errors and the cost of reprinting material.
This does not seem like a set up for success so we would love to get any recommendations and suggestions on how to proceed and help our client understand our concerns.
I don't think it's wise to assume accountability to reprint based on the opinion of someone who will not review materials until they are printed. You say that someone else will do the work if you don't, but if this work bankrupts your agency due to frequent reprints then it is better if someone else goes bankrupt.
These demands don't just seem unreasonable, they are unreasonable. Also inefficient and not cost-effective, as any errors occurring cannot be caught until the job is already on press. Perhaps if you take the time to show how much extra cost is incurred if a job has to be stopped on press, the client will feel more open to having client staff proof prior to final production. I'd also make clear that if the error arises in their materials provided to the agency, it's still their responsibility and will be deemed "AA's" (author's alterations) for which you will bill them. That has been standard practice in the agency business for decades.
Ultimately, if you are required to take responsibility for accuracy, they must attest to accurate materials at the front end. If they are unwilling to do that, I would say, "Sorry, if you can't provide us with approved, accurate materials at project inception, and won't proof what you provided to us before final production, we cannot take responsibility for the final product being accurate." Sometimes if you politely and firmly push back, clients will back off.
If they say, "We'll take this to someone else," I'd say, "That's your right. Let us know when you need your next job reprinted due to errors, and we'll talk about the correct way of re-doing the project." You are professionals; demand respect. And then hunt really hard for better clients who understand the value you provide and are interested in partnering, not using you as a ready-made scapegoat for internal mismanagement.