As Told To Marcus Honesta.
I recently sat done with one of the Advertising Agencies more famous, retired Creative Directors to ask him to share some of the more unusual, sometimes hilarious memories of life in this “Mad Men’s World”. What ensued was a collection of “Gems” of wisdom that are just as relevant then as they are today. I share them with you; our readers may especially enjoy these jaunts down memory lane. He told me:
It’s amazing how many businesses don’t know where their money is.
A car company gives out so many vehicles to so called brand ambassadors they lose track of them. A transport company misplaces a couple of million palettes and no one notices. A company pays invoices for services they didn’t receive.
Advertising agencies are no exception.
I was the new creative director. I went to the nearest newsagency to the office to buy some magazines ‘for reference’.
Now magazines are not nearly as expensive as cars or palettes but a couple of Vogues and two or three Vanity Fair’s and the bills are not insignificant.
In the course of my purchase I told the guy behind the counter what my purchases were for. He asked me did I want to put them on the agency’s account.
I said I didn’t know we had one but yes thank you I would.
In due course I asked around to find out how many knew of the account and how many were using it. In short the answer was a lot.
Next management meeting I asked who knew about the account. No one did.
But the next time I tried to use it, it had been cancelled.
Is this any way to run a business? I could never find out who signed the invoices.
In the scheme of things the price of magazines wasn’t much. But I bet you we were paying for lots of other stuff we didn’t know about.
In another agency in another time there was a board meeting where the chairman asked the finance director whether the agency had received a cheque from a particular client. It was for something in the vicinity of 5.5 million dollars.
“It’s in the mail,” said the finance director.
“I think for five and a half million dollars we could have sent a courier,” said the Chairman.
You can’t get good people to work for you, if you’re not good people yourself.
If you want to be a successful creative agency, you have to have successful creative people who want to work with you. I’m talking about directors, photographers, producers, songwriters etc.
I was ECDing for a multi national. My phone rang. It was the producer from a well-known production company. They had recently shot a very well received commercial for the agency. At the time of the call it had been on air for around 2 months. The producer wanted to know, very politely, when his company could expect the second 50%
I said I was surprised they hadn’t already been paid because that was the deal. I said I would chase up the invoice.
I bailed up the CFO in a corridor and enquired about the unpaid invoice.
His immediate reaction was to blame the client for not having paid the agency. “We’re not a bank,” he said.
“Neither is the production company,” I countered. “You can’t expect good people to work for us if we don’t pay them as agreed.”
“I’ll look into it,” said the CFO.
And he did. He was a pretty good guy who really tried to understand what the creative department actually did. The production company was paid. I explained to the producer he didn’t have to thank me for something we should have done anyway.
A week later I again bumped into the CFO. He greeted me as follows, “I found out why the client hadn’t paid that production house invoice.”
“The account guy forgot to send out the invoice.”
To be a truly great agency you have to make sure all the bases are covered, all of the time.