The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

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October 10, 2007, 7:03 am
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Deflated Clown

It was so exciting …

It was all set to be a pivotal moment in my career …

We had been asked to make a massive difference to a massive brand …

Not because of price or availability …

But because of the way we thought and did things …

They said they were open …

They said they wanted change …

They said they wanted to be challenged, scared and led to a brave new World …

They said they were committed …

They were wrong.

Longing, Hoping, Waiting

It started off well … really, really well … with loads of meetings, conversations and exploring.

Along the way, we discovered a whole host of new experts, insights and opportunities and whilst some of these were rather confronting, the client continually encouraged us to help them get past them… and get past them, we did.

Of course they were apprehensive, this was about changing something that was incredibly successful over a long, long period of time – however by validating everything we said … step-by-step, insight-by-insight … we were able to give them the confidence that our strategy was the right one to liberate their brand for many years in the future.

It was about this time that things went a bit mental.

Despite ‘buy-in’ at every stage, at every level, we suddenly started hearing strange comments about what we were doing.

Comments that started to dictate and mandate certain elements of the idea.

Elements that were entrenched in the negative attributes of the brand … attributes that needed to change if we were to be able to create the fate they desired.

In seemingly the blink of an eye, things went from gold to shit.

Everything started to be questioned … the thinking … the insights … the experts … the validation …

And even when they accepted everything was right, they acted like everything couldn’t be more wrong.

My favourite bit was when they announced that rather than wanting dramatic change, they actually just wanted their current campaign to be tightened up – even though at the initial briefing [and subsequent meetings] they said on a scale of 1-10 for pragmatism, they demanded a minimum of an ‘8’.

From being a meeting of minds, it was suddenly a game of chess – and while I can’t go into the specifics why, the reality is we were pawns in a much bigger, much dirtier game.

Train Toilet

Unfortunately I can’t go into who I am talking about [and if you know, I’d prefer it if you kept it to yourself – especially if you’re one of the people I showed the strategy stealomatic to] because we’re still battling to save the idea and I don’t want to fuck it up with some ‘loose lips’ … however what upsets me most is that our relationship – a relationship that used to energise each and everyone of us – has become one of reluctant involvement.

Now when we have a meeting, you can feel the energy and enthusiasm literally seeping away. Not just from us – but from them too.

It’s like you can feel your impending death and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

It’s watching a marriage slowly destruct … a team losing their common belief … a passion being crushed infront of your eyes. 

Yes … yes … that’s all very dramatic – but that’s exactly how it feels – not just for me, but for a bunch of really talented, young guys who have given their absolute all to be part of something they can be proud of.

There is almost nothing more depressing than knowing everything you do will be called wrong, especially when …

1 They can’t / won’t explain why

2 It’s bang on the strategy they signed off on

Mr. Transfusor!!

I’m not saying we’re blameless, we’ve made a few mistakes – but all of them have been in accordance to what they always said they wanted – so I hope things can change back as quickly as they went bad, even though if I am being honest, I’m not very confident of that happening.

Apart from the fact that ‘fear of change’ has risen its ugly head … we’re involved [by association] in a game which we really can’t win and the sad thing is everyone will probably lose out. 

1 We lose the chance to produce an idea that I truly believe is great.

2 The client misses out on an idea that can achieve their short and longterm brand and sales aspirations.

3 The consumer continues to get treated as an imbecile.

4 The ad industry continues its slow decline into mediocrity.

This is not an isolated incident – I remember Russell saying he had a similar situation when WK had the Microsoft account – and to be honest, cynic went through a similar thing when they first won Coke – however while ups and downs are the norm in adland [which is part of what makes it such an exciting – as well as frustating – industry to work in] I hope to God we can get the energy flowing inwards again because the thought of losing this idea makes me truly depressed.

Don’t think I say that just because it will allow great communication – I say it because it’ll also answer our clients short and long term business aspirations – and at a time where adland is being challenged to justify its value to industry, I find it somewhat ironic we’re now being pushed to make campaign that’s almost identical to the one that has seen a decade long sales decline.

It’s a daft industry but it still makes me burst with excitement. What an idiot I am!

23 Comments so far
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Never forget that an idea doesn’t suddenly lose its quality and validity just because someone else goes cold on it. Sure the team should be depressed/frustrated because of the nature of corporate politics and the pre-eminence of insecure ego. But in the grand scheme of things that’s just a hiccup along the way that is dwarfed by the potency and rarity of creative intelligence. So you couldn’t persuade someone to have the balls to be different and adventurous – so what? Happens all the time. If you never had the wit to try or the collective ingenuity to create something you believed in – well then you’d really have reason to be depressed.

Comment by John

the thing is john, rob and the team did convince the client to buy the idea, in fact they thought it was so great they even kissed him and hes a very ugly fucker. its politics that is causing the shit, not their inability to make the client see sense.
rob i know how much you have done on this project and how much you care so heres to you being able to work your magic and get things back on track. if you managed to do it with coke, you can certainly do it with that bunch of fuckers. 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

I admire your passion Rob. I really do. Good luck mate.

Comment by Age

What you described would be crap for anyone but I know how passionate you are so it would be especially hard. Like Andy said, you managed to get Coke back on track so this lot should be well within your capabilities. I hope you do it because what you’ve come up with is magic and I know it would also help you settle a few scores.
Let me know if I can help.

Comment by Pete

And I love the fact you are so honest about this sort of thing, it’s refreshing, encouraging and strangely enough, inspiring.

Comment by Pete

Ah yes, SO familiar. So very familiar. I do think that passion and fight are great responses though. I find myself sighing in acceptance too often lately. Good luck with it.

Comment by Emily

Oh for the love of god.
The only good thing here is that at least you lot have the passion to keep pushing a great idea when others would have given up.

Its as if some companies enjoy having wrecking their own campaigns…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Oh dear, this post has come across as a massive ‘dear John’ and it wasn’t meant to be that – though I do admit to being abit disillusioned but then that could also be down to lack of sleep and jetlag, ha!

Comment by Rob

If they don’t buy your idea, sell it to the competition.


Comment by The Kaiser

Great ideas alter the power balance in relationships, that’s why they’re always resisted.

It’s so frustrating doing what you’ve been asked to, only to feel them pull back when it all becomes too real. It really sucks. I saw a bit of research of UK clients who mostly say they would want to work with BBH or Mother. They also say the number one thing they judge agencies on is creativity.Hogwash – it’s just to kid themselves they do.
I think it’s exactly like giving up smoking. You have to really want to do it.
The amount of times I hear “You’re right, we know it’s the right thing to do, we’re just not ready for it”.

Comment by NP

Funny you should say that Mr Brown …

We once pitched for a car account as if we were presenting to their number one competitor and ended the meeting saying that if they can’t give us a really good strategic reason why this sort of approach wouldn’t work for them, guess where we’d go immediately after the meeting.

We won. But then got told off for ‘advertising blackmail’, hahaha! Not sure if we’re brave enough to do that again – but I’m certainly not stupid enough to let a good idea disappear because one client let other issues cloud their judgement.

The anger is turning back into energy again 🙂

Comment by Rob

The snail is on the thorn. The lark is on the wing. The hat is on the side of my head. The rainbow is around my shoulder and everything’s for the best in this best of all possible worlds where every prospect pleases and only man is vile.


Comment by Mr. Happy.

Good point NP – on the brightside, we once got paid a small fortune by a rather well known global brand to NOT run an ad we made for them, despite it achieving their highest ever research rating.

The reason? It was too pragmatic for them and while they knew it would work its socks off, they felt it would shift the balance of their other brands too much.

We did point out that maybe they shouldn’t of appointed an agency called cynic if they weren’t prepared for what we would do for them [which they also approved to be made] but hey, they coughed up the cash which at least gives them abit of honour and integrity.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why we didn’t sell the ad/idea to someone else, the reality was this company was the dominant player in the category so there was little chance anyone else would be able to afford to make it.

While I legally can’t show you the ad or go into who it was for, I can tell you it was for a ‘nappies’ brand and that the core idea was the lovely, “PROTECTS YOU FROM PEOPLE FULL OF SHIT” … I leave the rest to your imagination!

Comment by Rob

Keep up that energy. It may just save the day…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I don’t feel sorry for you, I feel sorry for your client because if history is anything to go by, you’re going to approach this situation with the cunning of a fox, the relentlessness of a terrier and the reasoned argument of a barrister.
They have no idea what is about to hit them.

Comment by Wayne Green

fear is a real shit. it will take the spark out of any relationship – whether it’s with friends, lovers or clients and leave the whole thing in a steaming pile of poo. it’s also incredibly cliched and i’m sorry that you’re stuck on the end of it. i hope they come around rob. i really do.

Comment by lauren

You should Lauren, it was created with appealing to you in mind. And no, I am not joking.

Comment by Rob

go to bed Campbell.

Comment by The Kaiser

Zzzzzz Zzzzzz Zzzzzz Zzzzzz

Comment by Rob

you created a strategy for me and they’re not taking it on?!!?? that’s it, i’m walking into mr weak-kneed-client’s office as soon as i can and demanding that he pull his head out of his arse and come to his fucking senses. no one backs out of a strategy that i’d be happy with and gets away with it…

Comment by lauren

In seemingly the blink of an eye, things went from gold to shit.

…sounds like my dinner party anecdotes.

Hope it all comes through. Sounds like good work bursting to come out.

Comment by Charles Frith

I don’t know about good work bursting to come out [OK, yes I do and yes it is} however I’m bloody bursting a gut to make this happen and if it doesn’t they’re going to have to answer to Jill for the bad mood I’ll be in for a while, hahaha!

How are you Charles? Surviving? Thriving? Killing?

Comment by Rob

Sorry to hear that Rob. I hope they realise what fuckwits they’re being.

Comment by Angus

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