Whenever I see a creative brief and it already has the delivery mechanism (DM, online, press, whatever) filled in before the proposition has been decided, I know we're deep into 'want' territory.

It may not be what the client needs, but it's what she's asked for.

That's just one example, but it sheds an uncomfortable light on the way agency/client relationships have changed.

Very few agencies these days help to define their clients' business strategy. Mostly, what they get is sight of the finished marketing strategy, and the opportunity to implement all or some of it.

Yes, the business plan should inform the marketing strategy. But the truth is, for most clients, defining need is too hard and takes too long. So the inexorable pressure on marketing to fill the funnel inevitably leads to a flurry of activity that looks busy, but delivers little.

What are the agencies supposed to do? Push back, ask awkward questions? Understandably, they'd rather do the work and make the money. There are plenty of other shops sniffing round their business, all very happy to execute.

Understandably, but wrongly. Because all too often when the results are in, the agency is out.

The only way to stop the cycle is to stop focusing on the marketing problem – the 'want'.

Instead, identify, understand and address the business issue – the 'need'.

Want is a short-term patch. Need is a much more powerful driver.