Tuesday, June 25, 2019

If You Are In Advertising, Do You Use Your Client's Products?

Some people actually take a detached view of buying and using their clients’ product(s).  I conducted an informal survey recently and found that many people I interviewed actually did not use or buy their clients’ product.

Shame on them.

One of these people confessed to me that he did not know that he was expected to use his clients’ brands.  Give me a break.

A little loyalty – to his agency and client – was in order.  When I challenged him, he brushed me off.

The truth is, if you work on a piece of business you are obligated to use your client’s products if possible.  Period.  It doesn’t have to be the exact brand you work on, but it should be a product made by your client. And it certainly shouldn’t be their biggest competitor.

Back in the early sixties, my dad’s agency handled Tareyton Cigarettes, made in those days by The American Tobacco Company.  Their rule was very sensible – every employee who smoked in the office (it was allowed in those days), had to smoke Tareyton or another American Tobacco brand – Lucky Strike, Pall Mall or, Dunhill among many others. .  In those days the client came to the office frequently, so they could see what brands people smoked.  And don’t think for a second that they didn’t notice.  Every employee knew what was expected of them.  

This is true of every agency.  And while I have never heard of a client firing an agency because they did not use the client's products, it could be and should be grounds to fire the agency.

Not using brands that are made by your client is shameful.  If your client is Makita, use their products not Black & Decker or Stihl. Mostly, clients will allow ad agency personnel special, reduced pricing, especially for those who work directly on the brand.  Years ago, when I worked on JVC, the client made sure that I had their televisions and their music products - and they were pretty good.  I got a load of their products, some at no cost at all.

Using the clients’ brands may actually give you marketing and advertising knowledge.  After all, buying and using a particular brand may provide insights which might be usable.

Just remember that your agency’s clients are paying your salary.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Five Reasons Why You Might Not Get Feedback After An Interview

This post is in honor of the multitude of job seekers who go on interviews either through recruiters, networking or job boards and are incredulous that they cannot get feedback on their interviews.  All too often, the interview ends positively with a promise of further meetings, but the candidate  then hears nothing. The experience just goes into a black hole.  

I cannot speak about other industries, but in advertising, this situation is all too prevalent. 

One of my pet peeves – actually all recruiters and HR professionals – is not receiving feedback after a candidate interviews. Some companies look at giving feedback as a nuisance. I once actually had a client tell me that the trouble with recruiters is that they want feedback.  What she didn't realize is that in failing to provide this information, she ended up costing herself more interview time as well as leaving candidates with a poor opinion of the company.  This is especially important when the jobs specs are vague, which is often.

Sometimes when we get feedback it is unspecific.  This is also useless.  We recently got an email after a candidate had had multiple interviews, saying that the company was “lukewarm” on the candidate.  I had no idea what that meant or how to interpret it, especially since he had been through a couple of interviews.  That kind of non-specific comment doesn’t help us, the company or the candidate.  

When professionals are told that a candidate has too much of this and too little of that, we are able to look more efficiently and effectively for additional candidates.  (I have cancelled future interviews of candidates when I have discovered that they would be wrong for a job based on feedback from someone's previous interview. Sending them would be a waste of their time and the company’s time.)  Feedback also gives us additional insight into candidates; after all, another opinion of a person is a good thing for us to have.

So why don’t people give feedback?

I am guessing that very often, the first level of hiring manager or human resources schedules multiple interviews and decides to wait until all people are seen. They would prefer to give simple feedback, like, “Let’s proceed with candidates number 1 and 3.”  But that provides no insight or direction into what is right about the two chosen candidates or what was wrong with number 2; it may well be that the HR professional or a recruiter has other candidates and some may be better qualified, but without the feedback and comparison to the other interviewees (even if we don't know them), it gives us no concrete direction and doesn’t allow us to move forward on their behalf.  Sadly, the manager thinks that he or she is being more efficient.

Another reason people don’t give feedback is that they are so busy that they cannot or will not spend the few minutes to provide insight into their interviews. And if there is no HR person or other middleman involved who can push them into being specific, the interview may just go into a black hole.  They just don’t want to spend the time.  Of course as a result of that, candidates spread the bad word that the company or the person is rude.  Every interviewer’s job is to create positive public relations for their firm. Getting no results after an interview drives candidates crazy.

A third reason hiring managers may not give feedback, is that they are not trained interviewers and simply don’t know what to say. They will interview until their gut tells them a candidate is right and simply accept that candidate, forgetting about the others.  To avoid this problem, all companies should teach their people how to interview (I have given many seminars on this subject). I would also recommend that a company create a feedback form which should be sent back to HR and passed back to recruiters, if appropriate.  It could make the process actually go faster and smoother.

There is a fourth reason.  Sometimes candidates screw up interviews.  But without telling us or them, whatever the problem is or was, we cannot help unless we can identify the problem.  I have never understood why companies are reluctant to give their recruiters bad news. (I once lost a candidate because he misspelled something on a thank you note after what would have been his final interview.  It took me three weeks before I finally got the HR person to tell me what happened.)

As mentioned, one of the jobs of a recruiter is to create positive public relations for their clients. Mostly, when I can tell my candidates the feedback, they agree with the truth.  And since I believe in telling my candidates the truth, they are appreciative.  That is far better PR than when we hear nothing.

Sometimes we hear nothing because the human resources person we are dealing with has been unable to obtain feedback from the person who did the interviewing.  When that happens, it is better to tell us or the candidate.  At least it is something.

Everyone who spends time interviewing can and should be able to learn from the experience.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Farewell Tribute To The Four Seasons Restaurant

The Four Seasons Restaurant achieved something that few restaurants anywhere in the world achieved – It became iconic. I wanted to pay it tribute because it was the ultimate expression of branding and identification.

The Four Seasons Restaurant is closing today.  It will be missed by everyone who has ever been there.  For those who were unfortunate enough not to have eaten there or  or visited it, I want to describe the experience.

The Four Seasons was more than a restaurant.  It was an experience – every time I ate there, which was a few times a year.  (In fact, I was taken there for my twenty-first birthday and celebrated my birthday almost every year since.) 

The Four Seasons transcended the food, the crowd, even the ambience or the sheer delight of the Philip Johnson interior. There was something magical about eating there.  It was a total experience.
How many restaurants in the world have their own lobby?  The impressive raw marble and the size of the entrance set the mood for an elegant meal.  Guests had to walk up a castle size flight of steps to get to the restaurant.  The Four Seasons was actually two restaurants, plus a gorgeous bar.  The first thing anyone noticed when walking up the stairs was the grill room with its lush, handsome wood and the gorgeous bar, with hundreds of bronze rods dangling from the high ceiling.  All guest were greeted at the reception desk. People always had preferences for their choice of rooms.  The Grill Room was warm, business-like and somewhat dark.  I always preferred the elegance of the Pool Room, but many executives preferred the Grill Room.  The restaurant kept records of who ate where.

Walking down the long hallway to the Pool Room everyone first passed the fantastic Picasso tapestry (which was created as a backdrop for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.) It was immense and perfectly set the tone for the Pool Room and what was to come. Then came the beautiful wine cellar with an extensive array of their wines, including some of the world’s finest.  Entering the room was always an awesome and grand experience. From the entrance to the room, every visitor got a view of the entire restaurant. The two story ceiling gave the room an elegance unlike any restaurant in the world.  The waving bronze curtains shimmered to form beautiful waves.  The tables were set far apart for intimate conversation.  They were set with especially designed silverware, glassware, serving bowls and napkins, all specifically designed for the restaurant.  The room said to the world that this was a special place.

Aside from the Picasso (now at The NY Historical Society) there was tons of fine art – all contemporary – Rothko, Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, among many,  The art alone was worth the trip.
The Four Seasons became iconic.  There was no restaurant like it anywhere in the world.
One could argue whether the food was good or great (never bad). They served wonderful, creative food – crisp shrimp in mustard sauce, gazpacho, crispy Farmhouse Duck, steak au poivre and Chateaubriand.  Many dishes were prepared or finished table side. Their desserts were legendary. The meal ended with petit fours and a huge mound of fluffy, pink cotton candy – what other restaurant served this kind of outrageous meal?  There have been many restaurants with more innovative and contemporary food, but none compared to the totality of the Four Seasons.

It had its share of celebrities.  Years ago, I saw Gregory Peck; he actually stopped the entire restaurant (he was truly a gorgeous man); he looked up at the hushed patrons and acknowledged their esteem.  There was Paul Newman drinking his beer from a bottle.  Gwyneth Paltrow with a large group.  There were many others over the years.  Almost every time I visited there, I could see ad agency luminaries. And of course there were tycoons of business, some instantly recognized, some not so much. It was home to and the inventor of the "power lunch"because many of the business people ate there every day - at the same table, of course.

Unlike other restaurants, I always felt that I was an adult eating there.  It was very grown up, but somehow its formality did not deter from the experience.  It was the kind of restaurant that its patrons wanted to get dressed up for.  I knew I had arrived when they asked if I would like to open an account there, all I had to do was leave a tip and sign the bill. 
When they closed in 2016, because their landlord would not renew their lease.  They then spent over $30 million to relocate and build a new space, sans pool.  It was lovely but it was not the same place.  The new restaurant was actually gorgeous and impressive, but it could not replace what had been and after nine or ten months of struggling, they decided to close.

It is a great loss.

Eating at the Four Seasons was a statement.  It was always expensive, which made it a great place to entertain clients; inviting a client to dine there was an announcement that the client was special.  There are many great restaurants in New York City, but none have achieved the status of the Four Seasons.  The restaurant’s success was a tribute to its partners, Alex Von Bidder and Julian Niccolini.  They made every guest feel welcome, whether they knew the guest or not.  They understood the restaurant and its patrons and kept it consistently great and on brand – every detail was always consistent and perfect.

The Four Seasons closing leaves me with an empty feeling.  I will miss it.  There will never be another restaurant like it.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Your Clients Are Not Your Friends

This was a very hard lesson to learn.  It took me years to understand that the clients, sales people who call on me and people I associate with may be friendly but they are not necessarily friends. I learned that I can see them or talk to them every day, I can exchange pleasantries, can even exchange personal information. I may have dealt with and hung out with them for them for years. But I have learned to be careful.  In the end, what is between me and them is business.  

Some remain friends and friendly, but the vast majority torn out to be what I call business friends, which is different than a true friend.
I found out the hard way. In one instance, when I rotated accounts after a number of years, my client, who I thought I was friends with since we saw each other socially, blew me off. Clearly, we had a great relationship, but it turned out to be business.  We had lunch shortly after I had moved on and all he really cared about was to pump me for information about his new account person and the agency.  After that lunch, he blew me off and never returned my calls.  I thought he was my friend, but he was not.

There was another instance, which I wrote about, where the chairman of the agency thought the client was his friend and after a focus group he brought the client back to his very elaborate home.  His house in Westchester was located right on the Long Island Sound.  He also had a major art collection.  While still at the focus group, the chairman called his housekeeper who set out an elaborate spread for the five or six people who came over.  The next day, the client’s associates actually complained that he lived too elaborately.  Their complaints were so vocal as to leave the head client no choice but to cut the agency fee.  That post was entitled, Don’t Bring The Client Home.

I can think of one director of advertising who favored his account director and allowed the account person to bring the account with him to three different agencies.  The account was a major spender and everyone knew the product.  The issue was that nobody liked the account guy, except, of course the client.  But when the third agency's president  did something which none of the other agency presidents did: he established his own relationship with the client.  When he called the client to tell him that he was going to fire the account director, but wanted to keep the account, the client said, “I have been waiting for that to happen.  Of course.”  It turned out that the client was not a real friend of the account director.  I suspect that this happens all the time. 

The truth is that what you have in common is usually the business.  And mutual goals can create what appears to be tight bond, but basically the only thing you may share with these people is the business you do.

The point is that you can be friendly with your client, but you should not count on the friendship.  Once you leave an account or the situation that brought you together, try asking your clients to follow you on Facebook or Instagram or even LinkedIn.  It is a good way to stay in touch.  Time will tell whether they are friends or not.
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