It’s bad when an agency creative team judges its success on the quality of their restaurant reservations, rather than the commercials they produce.
Once on a trip to film a series of TV commercials for a Baby Bell, our agency team stayed at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. Nice, huh? I was to hole up there for a full month. Weekend flights home to San Francisco were optional — I could stay in LA on an expense account that was unlimited, as far as I could tell.
We ate at the most expensive restaurants we could get into. Life was good.
Around week two, I was surprised to find out that the client wasn’t staying with us. He was at a cheap motel on Sunset. While we were being served fresh fruit and omelets by aspiring actors, next to a beautiful rooftop pool overlooking Beverly Hills, the client was eating fast food.
I was completely embarrassed, especially because no one else seemed to be.
In the same spirit, at another large San Francisco agency, the creative team was completely cut off from interaction with a major telecom client. They were so sure that no decent work would ever get approved, that they submitted only concepts set in exotic locations. So if the work ever was bought, it would double as a vacation.
“We’re here in Tahiti to prove a point…”
* * *
Great advertising happens when the agency works hard to create a strong client-agency team, with a leading role for the creative director. It happens when the agency adopts the client’s problems, goals, objectives and understanding before the creative process begins.
What better way for an agency to assure mediocre or poor work than to foster us-versus-them environment?