[Hey I moved this to its own thread. Hope that's ok]
Yeah, I think everyone knows what you're talking about. There are a few things going on there (and probably more that others here could identify).
A lot of agencies/studios operate under a "design as a product" mindset, when they need to operate under a "design as a service" mindset. And that's hard, because a lot of their clients come to them thinking of design as a product, and not every agency is actually capable of offering anything but a product.
If you treat design as a product, your expectation is that the client has a thing that they want, and the agency/studio is going to make that thing. That's frequently problematic because the client rarely knows what they want at the outset, let alone what they actually NEED. Treating design as a service means that the agency does the work to understand the clients concerns, figures out what its needs are, works with the client to meet those needs, and does so with enough expertise that the client trusts that expertise to get them to the right place. So the hard part is establishing and maintaining that trust.
Coming to a client bearing a portfolio of work that establishes without a doubt that you know what you're doing; that's a part of it. Establishing from the start of the relationship what roles each of you will play, how the workflow will proceed, and how the communication will work best; that's another part of it. A client's input is crucial, but by the time you've got a client literally telling you where to put things and what color they should be, etc... the conversation is over and that relationship is sunk. If you have producers towing that line as if that's just the way it works... that agency is probably built to facilitate a "design as product" relationship. Either way, that trust in the actual process of design is eroded, and the agency is just a manufacturer at that point.
And that's the case for plenty of studios and agencies. And there's plenty of room for those studios to make money on plenty of clients. Because some clients just want to be catered to. And some want cheap solutions to what they perceive to be simple problems. But if you're not interested in that kind of work (and you're clearly not), then it'll take a real hard look at why that kind of relationship isn't built, and why that trust isn't established or maintained at your agency. Can you be better at your job? Probably. Can your producers adopt a more beneficial mindset for their clients? Probably. Is the agency appealing to a certain kind of clientele in the first place? Probably.
You want to be able to say to potential clients, "We have a demonstrable expertise in this area. And the value we bring, the value you're really paying for, is in letting us guide you through this process to an effective custom solution for you." And if you can actually deliver on that promise, you'll give things to your clients that they didn't even know they wanted, and they'll be fucking delighted. And you can see how in lots of cases that agreement is never made, or kept, and it sets the foundation for a relationship where you hear a lot of "my wife doesn't like blue, so no blue," or "my godson could do this for me for free, I don't understand why it's so expensive." Cuz, buddy... just hang yourself already.