Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Rare Client Who Demands Good Work

This story is worth sharing because it is so rare. It is almost a fairy tale....

Once upon a time there was a brand.  That brand was part of the portfolio of huge package goods company.  Its agency presented work to the company President.  He loved the work.

And then the work went into testing.  The testing was part of their long standing procedures.  The commercial tested well against the brand’s target audience which was very specific.

However, the brand group wanted the work to test better against their secondary audience and forced the agency to change the work to accommodate their needs with the secondary (and tertiary) target. The agency was forced by the research to change the work.  When the ads scored well against the new target, they went into production.

The production took several months and literally cost millions of dollars.  It was retested and did well against the secondary target, but scores dropped somewhat against the primary audience.  Nevertheless, the brand group endorsed the work..  The finished commercial was presented to the President before its launch.

When the President saw the finished commercial, he went ballistic. He wanted to know why the commercial changed from the original work he approved..  His brand group became sheepish; didn't really defend its actions.  The Ad Manager explained his actions, but the President was displeased.  The President authorized it to be re-shot with the originally approved storyboard.  Again, at a cost of millions.  The work went on air and is the best work in the category and continues to test well against the primary target audience.  Consumers actually love the spot (I am presuming this includes the secondary audience).

After the re-shoot, the advertising manager was fired for changing the work without telling the President.  The agency removed the account management lead for not managing the process.

The client is now happy.  The agency is happy.  And the brand group who forced the changes is just scratching its heads, but they are happy since their friends love the commercial.

Is it truth or fiction?


  1. Sounds rather like a fairy tale. Altogether too happy an ending, since the confluence of a company president being creatively perceptive combined with an ad manager being fired for screwing up seems about as frequent an occurrance as an alien visitation.

    1. David: I agree. But it does happen. There is a famous story about the ad manager who was in the presentation when Bill Bernbach presented, "We Try Harder". The ad manager told Bernbach that Avis couldn't possibly say such a thing. Robert Townsend, then President of Avis overruled the ad manager and several weeks later fired him for his lack of judgement. In the case above, I think the president was mostly angered by the fact that he approved something and then it was changed without notification.

  2. My father, who worked at Bates for quite some time, said, "I don’t know about the ad manager being fired, but I do think that it was Townsend who endorsed the idea of calling Avis #2."

    1. Hi FiveAces: Thanks for fact checking my response. The Avis story is quite well known and all true.


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