Tuesday, December 1, 2015
There's this unwritten law in advertising that you never speak publicly about bad clients. You don't name names. And you don't burn bridges.
By and large I have abided by that law. I don't know if you know this but I recently wrote an entire book about my travails in advertising and though I alluded to some names, never crossed the line.
Today, I'm going to throw caution to the Santa Ana Winds and willingly break that law.
Because I'm 44 years old. I'm almost done paying for my daughter's college education. And like my disdain for the Open Office plan, there are just some things that need to be said.
Recently, I was in San Francisco. On the way to the airport we passed by the former corporate headquarters of Siebel Systems. I'd be shocked if any of you heard of Siebel, much less knew what they did.
Theirs was the world of CRM, Customer Relationship Management, and at the time they were masters of their domain. Their namesake, Tom Siebel (reportedly with a net worth $5 billion), ran a tight, tight ship.
Men wore suits. Women wore dresses. And the elevators were pumped with the wholesome G-rated music of the Beach Boys, Frankie Vallie and the Johnnie Mann Singers.
In other words, the perfect client for Chiat/Day, the pirates of the ad world, to be pitching. But pitch we did, ignoring the results of the chemistry check and that we were the Mentos in their 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke.
I'll spare you all the gory details. The pitched internal battles between the Planning Department and the Creative Department. The painful hours spent behind one way mirrored glass in focus group facilities. And the lost nights holed up at the Radisson SFO, conveniently located within 300 yards of Runway 25 Right. (Note to you kids reading: unless you're a Pilot or a Flight attendant, you never, ever stay at the airport hotel. Never.)
I'll spare you the gory details mostly because it's a blur. But here's the part -- as close to verbatim as humanly possible-- I do remember.
"First of all, I want to thank you for all the hard work you've brought us today," said Tom Siebel, the man with his name on the building. "It's all so beautifully packaged. The margins are straight. The pages clearly numbered. And it's all so very professional. Very good."
He thinks the work is very good.
"However, I'm not so sure about the messaging."
"The words? I like some of the words. Not all of them. Some of them are good."
That's a few points for the copywriter.
"Not so sure about the pictures however."
Here it comes.
"Here at Siebel, we're in the business of business. So our ads should have some good business images."
At this point our account team was furiously taking notes.
"What about a woman taking an order over the phone? That's a good image. Or a man leaning over another man's shoulder and checking some work on a computer screen? Have you looked at that? Or what about two businessmen shaking hands as if they just completed a deal? That's a good image. Can you bring us back something like?"
Thankfully, we didn't.