In our business, the client should always come first. Without them, we would have no one to create for! (Except for us, which is most enjoyable, but it doesn't pay the bills...) However, when should an agency draw the line between what the client asks for, and what we know will be most effective based on what drives the consumer?
While reading a recent article in Ad Age, I noticed the author's plea to not drop innovation and creativity just because the client does not ask for it. The ability to come up with great ideas is the whole reason we are in this business. Most anyone can do 'research' to find ways to 'best' the competition, but creativity and ideas come very specific to particular minds. That's how inventions are stumbled upon; innovation is our "standard" at Mad Men Marketing. If the only constant is change, then how can we thrive on anything but ideas?!
Creativity is typically the main reason companies shop for agencies in the first place. Not to see who's come up with the best analytics, or how you can beat your competition on the battle field of sales... but who is the most creative with their thoughts, ideas and execution along with their ability to conceive of something no one has ever seen before - therefore giving you the edge no bar graph can.
SO, give agencies a chance. Let us do what you hire us for... And if you didn't shop an agency with creative intention, hear them out every once and a while, they might surprise you - and if they don't... well then, maybe you're with the wrong agency. Bigger isn't always better.