Thursday, September 15, 2011

Call of Doodie

Last week TBWA Chiat/Day got the call no agency wants to get. They were relieved of their duties on Call of Duty and the account was going to a rival agency. All of which makes little sense, particularly considering the stellar spot, with Kobe Bryant, Jimmy Kimmel, et al,  they had produced earlier in the year that resulted in millions of sales.

But as the saying goes, "no good deed goes unpunished."

There's another more applicable maxim, taught to me by my old boss David Murphy, when El Pollo Loco started courting a new agency after we had delivered a yearly increase of 13.8% in sales,
"Fuck them."

I am no stranger to the strange antics of Activision, the publishers of Call of Duty.

Years ago, I was brought in to conceptualize ideas for a Guitar Hero Super Bowl spot. This was a huge assignment and the agency pulled out all its guns, including teams from Chicago, NY and LA. Hundreds of creatives, most of them younger than me and most of them -- unlike myself -- residents of the gaming world.

Undaunted, and relishing the opportunity to compete with the millennial set, I tuned out almost everything said in the briefing session. (Good creatives don't want more information, they want less. They want the one essential part of the communication. If only the people who put together 'briefs' understood that.)

I had spots written in my head before I left the initial briefing session. Of course I followed them up with twenty more.

A week later I got the call from the Chief Creative Officer telling me that of the hundreds of scripts submitted by teams throughout the country, they had narrowed the field to four. Including one of my scripts. The very first one that found its way to paper. (BTW, I say my script because I was flying solo on this and was not working with an Art Director, lest anybody accuse me of being unfair.)

A week later, the same field had been halved again.
Two weeks after that, a winner had been chosen.
It was the spot I wrote.

Finally, after laboring in this damn business for more than 20 years, I was going to have a Super Bowl spot. And not just any Super Bowl spot. This was an elaborate multi-million dollar production involving kangaroos, flaming pianos, Aerosmith, chainsaw jugglers, Al Gore and Pakistani Plumbing Supply Salesmen.

With the playoffs looming, the spot was given Red Ball status and rushed into pre-production. A director had been chosen (a top A++ guy), editors and music people had been hand selected and locations had been preliminarily scouted.

All we needed now was a signed estimate.

And that's when I took a 50-caliber head shot between the eyes. In their infinite wisdom, the client, who had put the agency through multiple flaming, steel-spiked ringers on this assignment, decided on a whim to withdraw from the Super Bowl and sell the previously-purchased media space for a hefty profit.

TBWA Chiat/Day will move on from this temporary setback and do an award-winning spot for Gatorade, Visa, Apple or Nissan. They'll take in millions of dollars, run off to France, pick up some Gold Lions and drink $500 bottles of champagne on the Omnicom yacht.

I, on the other hand, am still reeling from the 2007 Super Bowl spot that never was. And now I have to write some banner ads for a local mattress store. And I have tree roots in my main sewer line. And it looks like I have to do a full house-to-street mainline replacement that will reach into 5 digits. And my prostate is growing faster than a teenage Sumo Wrestler.

My feelings towards Activision?
Fuck them.


george tannenbaum said...

You're a kinder person than I am, Rich.

I am at the point where I believe clients deserve to be shot.

I don't mean metaphorically.

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