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We sell, or else…we have more options

I just read this article by my friend David Mayo. A good read as usual but the following piece stayed in my mind.

“At around 9:30 am that first day, the phone rang, and it was the Guinness client calling to say that they didn’t like the kazoo music on the end of the commercials we had just aired and could we please change it?

I told the client that I would put a call into my creative partner and get back to him sharpish. After a couple of rings, a velvety voice answered the phone. It was a voice with which I was to become very familiar over the coming months and years. “Hello, Strawberry,” said Neil. I explained how the kazoo had to go, but the melody could stay, so we had to find another instrument.

“If the kazoo goes, so will you”, said the voice, as the line went dead. And so began my creative baptism by fire. (The kazoo stayed.)”

Reminded me of my brief stint at Trikaya Grey in its hey day. The rules of the agency were quite simple. Creative creates. Account management sells. Once account management ‘bought’ a piece of creative from the creative team they HAD to sell it. Till they bought the work, account management was free to ask as many Qs they wanted about the work to be convinced. I remember once being engaged in a discussion about a typeface choice and understanding the reason for the same. Clear roles and responsibilities.

As I look around at the state of the business in recent times, I find that everyone gives in far too easily. Creative is happy with their first idea. Account management is happy to take it and agree to any changes that client asks. Clients slowly start dominating the agency relationship. Work quality suffers. And then procurement steps in.

Early on I saw clients like P&G, Coca-Cola etc spend a lot of time on the science of communications. Their view seems/seemed to be ‘Once you understand the science, we can perfect the art’. A bit like knowing that if you mix blue with yellow you will get green. Once an artist understands that, he is free to do the most dazzling painting ever.

Agencies typically leap to perfect the art first. Then when faced with clients that ask the ‘hard’ questions the resultant interactions are less than pleasant. Even Van Gogh used certain colours for a reason.

As David says in his article ‘ We need to make time for the work’. I believe once agencies take pride in their work, not just the potential Cannes winners or in December of the year, but all work we will have raised our collective game.

Then we can collectively live by what the other David said..’We sell. Or else.’



  1. September 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Yes, I have been on the client side and seen creative people getting uncomfortable with some changes suggested. Also when I wear the consultants hat, I get irritated if a lesser talented client attempts to crush my ideas.
    The are three issues with todays competitive business environment. In India :
    1> The Sales guys are desperate for targets, their bosses pamper them and may even shoot a creative guy if the sales team complains. There are too many of us trying to get foothold into accounts at the same time. If we learn to practice ‘abundance’ and not worry too much about targets, then creative teams will get more free hands.
    (I would definetly not support any inefficient or arrogant creative guys who go totally against client brief )
    2> The clients in this internet age, after interacting with dozens of agencies,learn the jargon, and feel they are also the experts.
    3> At times there is a mismatch Good Sales guy+ Bad creative or Bad Sales guy+ Good creative, and both dont work efficiently.

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