Sunday, September 30, 2012

So You Think Your Client Is Challenging? Meet His Boss.


One of the fun things about going on holiday is you meet people you would never normally meet.

Last week, on holiday, I met a guy who runs one of the country's Top 100 companies. His kids and my kids were hanging out, so he and I were kind of thrown together.

Naturally, I asked him what he thinks of his company's advertising (they are a heavy advertiser).

He said he thought it was quite good, but could be better. He then went on to talk about how, when he'd taken the job, he'd invited the entire marketing department for a barbecue at his house. And then grilled them.

"I asked each of them in turn," he told me, "what was the No.1 rational reason why a consumer should choose our company. Most of them couldn't answer. And some of them told me it wasn't important!"

He threw up his hands in exasperation.

"We have three fantastic competitive advantages," he went on, "and we're not building our advertising around them!"

He then outlined for me these competitive advantages. As I have worked in this sector quite a bit myself, I know that consumers don't care much about those particular advantages. Maybe they should, but they don't. As always, they don't base their purchase decision on the rational factors.

I also know a little about the challenges his particular brand faces - for various reasons, it just isn't very popular, and is also seen as a bit old-fashioned. And I'm guessing that everyone in the marketing department are aware of this, because they are producing advertising that is modern and likeable.

But the big boss didn't get it. When I tried to explain, he shut me down.

It was all very depressing.

He was obsessed with communicating the rational stuff... and scoffed when I brought up the question of likeability, implying that I was some kind of hopelessly uncommercial hippy. I should explain that he himself, like probably most CEO's, was extremely left-brained - he was a former lawyer.

But my main take-away from this conversation, apart from a mild depression, was a new-found respect for this guy's marketing director, whoever that is. In the teeth of this demanding (and deluded) character, the marketing director is running the right advertising.

We all occasionally find clients challenging. We wish they'd take more risks, approve work that's more creative.

I guess we should remember who they have to get our work approved by.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said. Very few non-left brainers make it to the top of big co.s.

Anonymous said...

And that certainly includes advertising agency holding companies.

Jan said...

Ha, right. Know the pain of your opposite.
#truestory

ben said...

I'm going to guess that he was the boss of Ann Summers (surely a top 100 company) and he wanted his guys to sell the company on 'earth-shattering dildo-inspired orgasms', 'our pants are nasty but you'll only have to wear them once' and 'people love a good shag'.

The marketing bods are currently going with 'bugger like no other'.

Am I close?

Scamp said...

Calm down, Ben.

Lubomir said...

Scamp, I think you’ve said in previous posts that you are a firm believer that Creatives should not present their work to clients. I am not sure about the marketing people (sometimes they insist, your agency can be small or your accounts shitty) - but I’m 100% convinced that you should never ever meet with the product people or distributers.

I had one of the worst meetings ever. A product department chief - an Alfa male crushed the marketing team (consisting only women) in front of the agency. He was aggressive, vulgar, arrogant, blunt but above all he absolutely does not care about marketing. He wants to sell to 25-65 with “some TV spot” - “make it funny but not too much, and tell them we have everything they need.” At the end we almost had a fist fight.

Now the accounts (only women) said that I need to go with them to a second presentation with the same guy - I refused on the premise that this time I will not restrain myself - so the account department thinks that I’m running away from my obligations - “if you care for your work you will present it” - type of thing. I don’t know how companies full with people like this guy survive - maybe he is right and we don’t matter at all...

Scamp said...

Lubomir, I feel your pain. I think perhaps you should punch this guy in the face - show him that YOU are the alpha male. Or maybe play golf with him.

Lubomir said...

Cheers, Scamp! I am very optimistic about a game where he is armed with a metal crowbar and hits shrunken balls with it

MikeH said...

Or one could make rational points about the competitive advantages of the company in a 'likeable' way. Best of both worlds...

George said...

Awe come on Scamp - what was the company?!

Scamp said...

I know what you mean, MikeH. It's tempting. Especially as easier to sell to client. But then I feel you are wasting 50% of your effort on those rational points no one cares about. Much better, I'd say, to base it all on some emotion that people do care about.

Scamp said...

George, I can tell you that the company was...

definitely not Ann Summers.

Henry Bilson said...

I'm guessing it was Lloyds TSB

unpopular - government bail out

old fashioned - if it was a person it would be a city banker with a bowler hat

advertising - 'For the journey' animations = modern

a FTSE 100 company

correct?

Scamp said...

Henry - very, very good guess. But wrong.

Mister Gash said...

But Scamp.

Did you get to meet the CEO's wife on holiday.

You know that's where the real power lies.

And I assume - being the ruthless ad man that you are - you got the man's mobile number and handed straight to your New Biz person when you got back to the office....?

Scamp said...

Oh, Mister Gash. If only I had your common sense. There's never a producer around when you need one!