The Siesta

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.




Dia del muerto

El Día del Muerto

This story combines technology,the untimely death of an esteemed colleague and a bunch of bored Agency Creatives.

Just as this Agency had brought one (just one) desktop Mac Computer to the Creative Department, a coworker passed away in the most unfortunate of situations: He went home one day and never came back.

He was found in his apartment days later after his passing. (Details here would fall into the TMI category.)

The Bored Creatives decided to tape the dead man’s voice from his telephone mailbox.

They then transferred the sound bite to the new Mac Computer and assigned it as the sound for wrong command.

People were totally unfamiliar with computers and that “Wrong Command” beep was fairly common in those days.

So in essence we had our dead coworker remind us when we’d made a Macstake.

200Creepy, but still amusing.

Until major Presentation Day, when everyone was rushing to get the work out the door — people totally unfamiliar with the Computer were  making mistakes by the million, which kept responding the dead man’s name with the deceased’s voice.

Creepy, and annoying.

That day was also the day that a therapist had come to the departed’s department to hold a group session of dealing with loss.

The session required collective screams, which were heard from one end to another, as the computer kept making that sound.

And as the therapy session ended, all these folks heard repeatedly the voice of the man who was no longer.

Creepy and creepier.

That was our Deay of the Dead.



Batshit over Banana Chips

In those early days of marketing to Hispanics, convincing potential clients about the need to put some dollars behind those markets was a major challenge.

To that end, agencies did what agencies do: Use every possible argument, package it as attractiveley as possible to gain attention.

A favorite approach — and one that many today would swear proved effective — was to portray latinos just as others saw us: A hybrid between Speedy Gonzales and Qué Pasa USA.

Accents were encouraged; dress code ran the opposite direction of Dress for Success guidelines for Latinos (no shiny suits, pointed shoes or paper thin mustaches); people spoke in generalizations: “Latinos do […] Hispanics like […] We are […]

Against that framework, one prominent agency leader was invited to speak at a major advertising conference.

And to deliver he speech in those pre-Power Point days she chose the banana metaphor.

tumblr_mpq4njWXyP1qhtij5o1_400In a very heavy accent, she spoke of banana boats full of people that came to the US, brought their brand-loyalty, were family-oriented, fully-appreciative of : Simple-minded, noble savages ready to part with their dollars for those marketers who bothered with a limited advertising investment.

giphy-1This investment, said the Agency Executive in a euphoric speech, somewhere between a political “pronunciamiento”, a eulogy and a Sunday Sermon, would mean more banana chips for the marketers.

And as she delivered her rousing final line, she would throw up in the air bags of what else but banana chips.

At least two younger agency people, graduates of prestigious MBA programs, resigned their jobs and chose instead to seek fame, fortune and future elsewhere.





Hamburger Attack

And so started the phone calls.

From the Client to the Agency’s Principal.

And from the Agency’s Principal to the Creative Department.

The message spared no poison: “Up to now all Creative sucks and we need to present brand new campaigns — radio, print, TV, Direct, POP”.

The call came early one blistering summer afternoon demanding the first review around 6 pm that evening.

That’s how advertising schedules are: Mercyless.

It so happens that the Big Creative Director had taken a few Summer days off and was not reachable.

Add to that that the right hand person, a Creative Supervisor, had very limited advertising experience, having worked most of her life as a school teacher, was overweight, suffered from high-blood pressure and had medical instructions  to stay away from stressful situation.

Why was she at that job? Your guess is as good as mine.

She basically gathered the troops and told everyone to get to work, without saying a whole lot more because she did not know what else to say.

slide_314798_2852208_freeShe then ordered her lunch: A Cheeseburger Deluxe with the works: Ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions.

The Creative Department soon became a madhouse of activity, as people hustled trying to figure out what was it that the Client hated, trying to device a creative strategy of sorts against which to develop the new campaigns.

And questions started to pile up on the Creative Supervisor, who seemed to have found in her cheeseburger solace to the stress piling up.

She walked around, from cubicle to cubicle, to the bullpen, to the offices, her Cheeseburger in her right hand –She’d only been able to bite into it once, leaving the mark of her teeth.

It was a hot summer day.

The clock ticked towards 6 O’clock unrelentlessly.

The Creative Supervisor was about to break from the pressure.

slide_314798_2854270_freeAnd she wouldn’t eat or put away her burger. She held on to it. As a lifeline. Her lifesaver.

The dialogue that ensues is almost verbatum, despite almost 20 years since it happened.

Creative: How do you want to present the ideas at the 6pm

Supervisor: Can’t you see?

Creative: See what?

Supervisor: See that I don’t feel well.

Saying those words, she collapsed on a chair. Froze. Speechless. In panic. Sweating. Shaking.

Holding on, as she had been for several hours, to a cheeseburger, whole minus one bite, which she probably had forgotten how it got there.

tumblr_mtc5iesqMV1r61ts6o1_500And in that very same chair, still holding on to her burger for dear life, that she was carried, like some priestess in a throne, into a conference room, where she was laid on a table, a cushion on her head, her feet raised a bit.

Surrounded by a number of people, some females pulling down her skirt so it wouldn’t go up her thighs, others fanning her, one telling her to relax and still others watching how the burger’s grease, with a mixture of Ketchup, Mustard, pickle was inching its way from her burger all the way to her wrist.

And that’s how the paramedics took her that evening.

And when 6pm came, Creatives showed great stuff that was swifly approved by all.

Some tell us that the Cheeseburger has been preserved.




Bribing the Client is a ‘No-No’

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”.

Carmen_Miranda_and_César_Romero_in_Week-End_in_Havana_(1941)And then came the Big Night, first a Ball, in which the Account Director and the Main Client came in dressed up as a Latino Entertaiment Couple of the 50s.

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.

lmad_tvIt was Monty Hall’s Let’s Make a Deal! Only that Hispanic.

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.