What: Agency New Business pitch at Fortune 500 company.
Who: Agency top brass, including owner-founder, and possible Client’s CMO and entourage.
Where: Potential Client’s headqarters in a location on the opposite coast.
Background: The Agency had hustled to get into the pitch and when the news arrived it had “made the cut”, the mood was celebratory.
The decision was made to bring in the big guns. Deliver a killer presentation and land the account in this meeting.
Rewrites, reviews, rehearsals were crammed into a tight schedule and then an early bird flight took everyone to the meeting.
One final drill.
The meeting started right after lunch, all seated around a rectangular table.
Bad luck had it that it was hot, the Agency was facing a window, the shades didn’t quite close well and a warm blinding light proved a major annoyance.
Was the Agency’s resilience being tested?
Bad luck also had it that the owner/founder was no longer his once- bright energetic self and he started to doze off as credentials were presented, the buying habits of Latinos were discussed, the brand loyalty brought from the old country was emphasized.
And then came the research report which, following the standard practice of the days, was loaded with generalizations. “Latinos are this way. And that way. And like this. And so on a so forth”.
It seemed as if the meeting would never end, the presenters fact acquired a meaningless monotonous cadence.
At the precise moment this blogger was tuning out, a loud snore broke through the singsong of Latino truisms.
All eyes turned toward the founder/owner and, to everyone’s horror, it became evident that he was sound asleep.
Comments the CMO: “I guess Siestas are still part of the culture”.
Long, silent trip back across the continent.
A major client was becoming excessively demanding, unreasonably irritable and increasingly difficult to work with.
And so an Agency luminary came up with the amazing idea of staging a joint Client-Agency retreat at a luxury seaside spa about 2 hours from headquarters.
Some 20 Agency people and about that many Clients were invited to the event.
All were packed in a bus.
For the Client, it was supposed to be fun in the sun, with drinking, dancing and games galore.
For the Agency, it was to be another workday, charming the client — “bonding” was the keyword used at the time.
To that end, a busy schedule was prepared to fill every minute of the three days.
Clients were given “all you can consume cards” — for food and booze. (No escorts, that we know of.)
Agency personnel were encouraged to shadow their Clients, to ensure their glasses were never empty, their faces always smiling.
A series of games were staged — mostly revolving around marketing to Hispanics — in which Agency personnel were directed to politely and discreetly let the Client win.
And to celebrate such victories with euphoric shouts of “Well done”.
After dancing and grinding, came The Raffle.
Through connections with other advertisers and media reps, the Agency had acquired a roomfull of state-of-the-art electronic devices, all to be won by Clients.
And The Deal was “Only Clients Get to Win”.
By the time it was over, Clients had won trips overseas, shopping sprees, extra large TV sets, spa treatments, taylor made suits made in Hong Kong, golf lessons.
You name it, they had it!
Up to the point that the trip back required two busses — so the Clients could take home their prizes!
Back in the Agency, we congratulated ourselves for the successful event.
And then came The phone call.
The major Client, we were told by a white-faced Account Manager who just days before had dressed as a boytoy, was very strict about one clause that all employees had to sign in blood.
This was a clause dealing with accepting gifts from supplies. Nothing over $3.00 (the price of a pen or a desk gizmo) was allowed.
“Politely thank and refuse”, said the corporate directive.
The Agency, despite using the word Partner, was a supplier.
Receiving trips, TVs, spa treaments , taylor-made suits, shopping sprees, golf lessons and such was considered a gift.
And therefore a ‘No-No”.
The Agency had to send back a third bus to collect the gifts from the various clients’s homes.
Each Client had to individually reimburse the agency for all they ate and drank as well as their lodging at the luxury resort.
No one ever said one word about it again.