As told to Marcus Honesta.
In “Part Five” of my sit down with one of the Advertising Agencies more famous, retired Creative Directors I asked 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:
If you think their thinking about advertising you’d be wrong about 85% of the time. Most clients have much more important things on their minds. Like what the f**k their sales force is doing why is there glass fragments in the packets of soup why is the supermarket de-listing my best brand and why do gondola ends cost so much?
At best clients only think of advertising about 10-15% of the time. While we think about it 100% of our time.
If agencies would only put themselves in their client’s shoes a little more often they might understand a little better what’s bugging them.
I was working on a large Japanese car account. They were mostly a pretty good client and appreciated what advertising could do for their sales. But then for apparently no reason everything started to go a little pear shaped. Scripts took longer to get approved. Production budgets were scrutinised more closely. The once happy account took on an air of doom and gloom. What was the problem?
Well it turned out the single biggest thing affecting the sale of Japanese cars in Australia was the movement of the Yen against the Ozzie dollar. One yen either way translated into a million dollar adjustment in operating costs.
Once the agency understood and appreciated what was really on their client’s mind it was more able to put things in perspective and provide helpful solutions in light of the currency fluctuations.
The client immediately appreciated that his agency understood his business and took a more collaborative approach to their ongoing relationship.
New business is the lifeblood of agencies. If an agency has loads of problems; get in some new business and most of them will go away. And if you can manage to hang onto existing clients at the same time; well hallelujah
One of the biggest accounts in town was up for grabs. It was of a financial nature and a win here would see handsome bonuses all round. There was a lot at stake.
The client; in their wisdom; appointed a woman executive to co-ordinate the pitch and provide the first point of contact for all the competing agencies. She was very capable; dedicated and experienced. She did however have the unfortunate experience of falling in love with the team leader at one the pitching agencies. Matters of the heart know no master. The agency believed they had a better than average chance of winning the business.
But this agency had a problem. Their office in another state had a much smaller but highly competitive client in direct conflict with the new business opportunity.
Naturally in the course of events the much smaller client told their existing agency that if they persisted in pursuing the bigger financial institution they could consider themselves fired.
“Not a problem” said the agency; “we’ve declined to pitch.”
Meanwhile it had dawned on the big financial institution that one of their pitching agencies had a conflict. They contacted the agency and expressed their concerns. No problem said the agency we anticipated your concern and have informed our current client that we will no longer be able to handle their business.
Ha ha. The advertising industry is fuelled by gossip. The smaller financial institution soon found out (guess who tole them) that its agency of record was whoring itself around town. And the big financial institution soon discovered that the pitching agency was still in bed with its existing client.
So the agency soon found itself fired by its current client and dumped from the pitch by its potential client.
It was lose, lose all round and another edifying display of decision making by an industry stalwart.