Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An Advertising Story: Who Says Account People Have Nothing To Do On A Shoot

Account people often forget that they have a significant role to play while shooting commercials. It goes beyond just taking care of the client; it even goes beyond making sure the storyboard is covered.  This is a true story of an invaluable contribution an account person made to his agency and his client.

There was an account guy on a frozen French fry account.  The product was called Tasty Fries and it was extruded potatoes with crinkle edges, much like the way Nathan’s fries are cut.  The edges got crisp in the oven while the inside stayed moist and delicious.  The commercial that was being shot showed a demo of the fries cooking in an oven (time-lapse) with the crinkled edges browning.

The production house had to rent the only specially constructed glass oven that worked and could be shot through so the fries could be shown cooking. It was expensive to rent and essential for the time-lapse in this commercial.   When the senior account guy got to the set after the lighting was complete, it was about 11am.  He asked to see the oven. 

There was no oven.

The account guy was assured by the agency producer that the oven did not matter; they figured out that they could cook the fries in the studio kitchen and shoot them as if they were in an oven through some kind of stop motion, time-lapse photography to show them cooking.  That is where the account guy became assertive and told the producer, the art director and the production house people that there was no way they were going to fake a demo.  They assured the account person that no one would know and that he shouldn’t worry.   The account person told the production house manager and the agency producer that the shoot was over.  When they got the oven, they could re-shoot – at their expense.  Suffice to say there was a big argument, but the account person remained quite adamant.

I was the account person.  

I was cursed and yelled at and told I didn’t have the authority to cancel a shoot.  You bet I did. The production house didn't meet the terms of its contract.  I high-tailed it back to the agency as fast as I could; I barged into the executive creative director’s office and told him what I had done.  Of course, he agreed with me.  Within minutes the art director and producer showed up in his office, mad as hell at me.  They were screaming and ranting about the fact that I had no authority or right to do what I did.  The ECD calmly asked if the oven was there.  Of course they said no.  Then the ECD told them that I was 100% right and that they should have known better.  He also pointed out that I was doing my job.

Had they fudged the demo, we could have all gotten into huge trouble with the FTC.  Fraudulent demos, even if they are a real representation of the truth, are not allowed. (All advertising people should be familiar with the FTC/Campbell's Soup lawsuit  in 1968 or what happened to Volvo in the early 1990's.)  And someone would have had to sign an affidavit as to the authenticity of the demo.  And that someone, in those, days would likely have been me.  And there was no way I would have attested to the the demonstration.

Incidentally, the shoot was rescheduled a week later and went without a hitch, oven and all.

Who says an account person doesn’t have a great role to play on a shoot?  Now, this may be a once in a lifetime occasion, but one never knows.


  1. Great story Paul. Thanks for speaking for all of us.

  2. Great story. Had a few very similar incidents on Pillsbury shoots.


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

Creative Commons License