Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Feel the love

I love clients.

Probably not in the same way some account folks do. You know with the gushing. The sycophancy. And the involuntary laughing at every joke.

Account Executive: ...Oh my god, that's so funny.

Client: I haven't got to the punchline yet....

If I had mastered that kind of love who knows where I'd be right now. Possibly in a boardroom, waiting to be interviewed to replace Martin Sorrell. But that strand of obsequiousness does not run in the my DNA. As my friend Dana said the other day at lunch, "Siegel doesn't do subtext."

My love for clients is more like the uncle who comes to visit the kids, sees the stupid shit they do, laughs, and on the way home thinks, thank god I didn't breed.

I'll give you an example.

Years ago, I was producing some radio spots for a client. She thought it would be "fun" to show up at the sound studio to watch and participate in the process, a process which by the way is very delicate. Theater of the mind is not for rank amateurs. Which she clearly was. Because before I could get the talent even warmed up and into the rhythm of the script, she was reaching for the red talkback button and giving line reads...

Client: Can you read it with more energy?

Long story mercifully shortened, we sat in that booth for the next 2 hours as the actor kept injecting more and more energy into the read until she was screaming into the microphone and not surprisingly lost her voice. It was painful then, it's funny now.

Moving on.

While I was at Chiat/Day, I spent many years working on Nissan, for both the Regional Tier 2 and the more visible Tier 1 National campaigns. I can't think of a single piece of work that was not subjected to...

Client: Can we make the logo bigger?

And every time we did, Lee Clow (who insisted we treat the customer with respect) would inject himself in the process and tell us to make it smaller. This tugging back and forth went on for years. If you've seen any of the recent Nissan work you know who won.

Client (now attending the offline sessions): Let's make that logo really big.

Engineer: If it gets any bigger it will get near Title Safe.

Client: Perfect.

But my all-time favorite, and this is one every copywriter and art director has heard at one time, takes place at the presentation stage. It's usually in a conference room with a long table, lots of attendees, even some distant clients listening in on a crappy remote speaker. And it happens near the tail end of what could have been a great meeting.

After many of the heads are nodding 'Yes" and a sigh of relief has been indulged by strategists, media folks and several group creative directors who are already crafting weekend plans, one junior account person will inevitably, in a clumsy attempt to wrap up the dog-and-pony show, let loose with...

AE: Are there any other questions? Or concerns?

And there always are.

It's at this point that Todd, a junior client sitting in the back of the room, waiting to posture himself and simultaneously deliver the death blow, will stand up, clear his throat and launch this turd into the punchbowl...

Todd: I like all the work. But I'm not sure it's going to grab my attention. What if the commercial comes on and our customer goes to the bathroom? What if he can't see the spot or even hear it? Then what?

Indeed Todd, indeed.

I love clients.

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