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Aux Larmes Citoyens

The advertising agency is the ultimate capitalit enterprise.

200-1It makes money by helping clients make money and is therefor a gun for hire, ready to do whatever it takes so their clients are happy and appeased, their happiness and appeasement depending on sales and profits and such.

Arguably, everything that the agency does that’s related to the client’s business is centered on this objective.

200So, it came as a major surprise when a group of agency employees drafted and circulated a petition complaining to management that they had not been invited to go on one client-agency outing to a luxury spa.

They were unaware that the reason behind the event was to appease an increasingly unhappy client.

200-2They were also unaware that they entire thing was staged and that all the fun, games, gifts, everything would make this the trip to and from hell.

So during the 3 days that half of the agency was out, led by a frustrated Creative Director, a petition circulated denouncing the grievance, demanding justice.

The Creative Director then lobbied one-on-one for it to be signed.

The name of each signer was leveraged to get another one.

A handfull steadfastly refused to sign. They were pressure unrelentlessly.

The plan was to march Monday on to the General Manager’s office and deliver it. A 60s-style march with signs and banners that they put together.

200-4Came Monday morning, however, and everyone but the two key instigators chickened out.

The signs were quietly destroyed  and all was forgotten.

Or was it? Every now and then a cruel co-worker would use the word “Petition”. As in, “Does anyone want to sign a petition?” “Should we sign a petition?”

Always around the ingenuous instigators who thought advertising people had any rights.

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TMI — Definitely T.M.I.

Everyone has to take a dump and that’s just the way it is.

Most people try not do to it in the office — in fact manuals have been written on what to do in case you need to take a major one in the office.

giphyThat probably had to go through this expensive Director’s mind when he held an entire shoot for 45 minutes while he did his duty.

The standard procedure during a shoot is to feed crew, agency and client. It is demanded by the Union, expected by the Agency (catering can be pretty fancy) and a good way to catch up, socialize with the Client.

And so it was that one particular day, right after lunch that the Director’s bowels could no longer hold their content and he had to excuse himself.

It so happens that the bathroom was located too close for comfort to the set.

And so he went.

And stayed.

And stayed longer.

And even longer.

And people kept looking at each other.

Toilet_DiveAnd everyone knew the man was taking a shit.

Crapping.

Defectating.

Numbertwoing.

Reading.

And he stayed almost 45 minutes.

And when he walked out, a newspaper under his arm, he delivered his instructions to the crew. “Let’s move on to Number 2″.

And a little voice from the exasperated and embarrassed crew said.

“Didn’t you just do that?”

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Amazon Indians vs Ninja Warriors

You don’t have to be an Amazon Indian, a Borneo Aborigene or a Ninja Warrior to use a powerful dart blower.

tumblr_mt2r9hXA541s283tdo1_1280In fact, you can make one yourself with readily available office materials. All you need is an 8 1/2 by 11 piece of thick paper to fashion the gun, rolling into a tube and taping it in position, and a 3 x 6 inch sheet of thin paper, to make the dart.

To make the dart, you hold the sheet vertically, roll the paper diagonally around the lower tip, which you then glue using good old saliva. As with spitballs, saliva and paper are great companions.

You then fit the dart into the gun, trimming excess paper (that which doesn’t fit snug). tumblr_n2v4clElWE1s0m9s7o1_500

And you blow.

It can easily travel 20-25 feet.

That’s how a Creative Brainstorming session became an Amazon vs Ninja battle one long evening. Darts, laughter and some good-old Absolut Vodka got everyone’s creative juices flowing.

It also started a fascination with darts and blowguns and soon the weapons became more sophisticated as people brought metal of fiberglass pipes.

Varying caliber (diameter and length) meant more thrust and that darts could reach from one end of the hallway to another.

And people’s backsides (boys and girls) were favorite targets.

All in jest.

Then someone wondered if a dart could travel across the street.

And it did.

tumblr_ljqj4gTqD61qijfqzo1_r1_250So Creatives in a 25th New York City office floor took aim at the office across the street. And bingo, it went thru the narrowly open window.

Creatives would laugh non stop watching the faces of the people across the street wondering what those were.

Once or twice people were hit.

Startled.

Curiosity.

As all good things come to an end, one day the entire Creative Department, some 15 people (boys and girls, as you can’t call them adults) decided to launch a fusillade to the building across the street.

Curtains were drawn, people took positions.

“On your marks, take aim, fire!”, shouted a Creative Director.

Noone ever got the chance to laugh at the neighbors’s surprise because the event coincided with the Fire Inspection.

A shitload of trouble ensued.

Dartguns, once again, were left to the Amazon Indians, Borneo Aborigenes, and Ninja Warriors.

 

 

DRAWER B&W

What’s in Your Drawer?

First in and last out, this Creative Director was notorious for gathering the troops late in the afternoon (when everyone’s mind was already at the pub) for “Brainstorming Sessions”, for which she would throw bean bags around her spacious office and asked everyone to sit.

R2_dfb042_372975There was a meditating, guru-like feeling about the entire thing and a lot of people resented it.

They felt it was fake.

Plus it unnecessarily made people stay at work when they could be doing other stuff.

The general feeling was that this Creative Director lacked a social life.

Once that the “Brain Estorming” (as people exaggerating the Spanish accent called it) session was overcrowded someone sat at the Director’s desk watching as ideas were drawn.

At some point, the Creative Director’s marker ran out of ink and asked the person sitting at her desk to hand her one from her top drawer.

Opens the wrong one and finds a dildo.

“Can’t write with this one”, said he holding it with two fingers — perhaps out of as concern for the cooties.

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Fear of Germs

Pranking coworkers, like long hours and low wages, is part and parcel of an agency’s Creative Department.

It can be fun.

But also, cruel.  And senseless.

Most of the time it’s done for the fun of it. It is not about bullying.

Victims can be the most beloved and esteemed; they can be the new as a means to break the ice; they can be the cocksure, as to bring them down to earth.

Everyone is fair game.

So was our worker, a talented yet somewhat pretencious a bit pricky art director known for agreeing when agreement was needed, observing silence when silence was required, and for getting on some people’s nerves.

Someone pointed out that every agency briefing meeting was followed by a rush to the bathroom.

People took bets: He either shits a lot or he’s a chronic masturbator: During those days someone had circulated an article saying that many guys like to rub one off to release tension.

So people started counting Recency, Frequency and Length of each visit to the Caballeros room.

And then, someone decided that it was time to follow him.

At your own risk, a voice of caution said.

The scout noted that  the fellow wasn’t emptying his gut, or draining the vein, he was simply washing his hands.

Obsesively.

Furiously.

He was the man we’d all heard about: Terrified of Germs.

giphy-1Soon, at every occasion, coworkers started shaking his hand, patting his back, visiting his cubicle, touching things, even leaving stuff on his desk.

He’d run to wash his hands.

And then, once after lunch, someone left a half-eaten sandwich on the poor man’s workstation.

From across the aisle all eyes observed him as he looked for about 10 minutes as if developing a plan of attack.

He walked around it.

Even got close and smelled it.

Then he pulled out a pair rubber gloves from a box in his bag. A surgical mask. Put on the gear, closed the wrapped, and carried keeping it away from his body all the way to the kitchen. He came back with spray and paper towels.

And proceeded to wipe clean the entire cubicle, totally unaware that he had an audience of amazed coworkers in total awe.

And off he went to wash his hands.

 

SIesta

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

Chiva-medellin

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.

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