A Guy Walks Into an Ad Agency and Sees A Horse, A Talking Bird and Feather Boa Wearing Women

(I Hear Ogilvy Laughing: Part 2)

Now that I’ve decided to be so candid, am I running the risk of losing creditability with clients? A friend working for a government agency told me that one has to accept acceptable risks and plunge ahead.

Here is a pattern that we have fallen into – we see it at pitches – we see it in our offices. We talk about ourselves and not about the work. We can do for that specific client. In football it’s called a Barry Sanders – start one way, come to a stop, slide sideways then run parallel to the tackler, all the while going past him. It’s a Barry Sanders because when we are talking about ourselves, we’re stalling for time. Sanders was waiting on the great block (he played for the Detroit Lions, so it never came), or waiting for an opening – toward the goal line. When we brag about being a winner or a runner up to some group handing out trophies, we’re loitering. We’re hoping the prospect will say: “Oh, okay! When can you start?” Better to offer an intelligent discussion of what our work will accomplish, than duck and dodge.

I remember attending a meeting with a potential client. He threw a lot of jargon at me – jargon that’s from my profession. I told him it was better to talk one-on-one. The account man with me started spouting every possible phrase you could think of to simply say we’re going to run a print, Internet and broadcast, billboard campaign. It was brutal. We didn’t get the account. Another agency did – one that favored “advo-babble.”

Heck, I’m no genius, but I’m smart. I know that particular client was rolling his eyes, thinking I’m going to put a talking mule in a campaign for his retail store, or some craziness like that. I’m not giving him any other the options but to believe that I escaped from the squirrel house. We must approach our work with clarity and articulate the same.

Rick Webb, as did the great Ogilvy pointed out that agency owners have a decided role. Sometimes we need to step back and select a team that can present a methodology better. I’m listed as president of my company, which means I’m responsible for bringing in money. That may be trying to acquire a line of credit, a loan or break into Aunt Esther’s house and take her antiques to the pawn shop. Okay, that’s extreme. But it’s also serious. Webb advises us to determine our roles and keep agency to afloat. It’s maintaining a clear vision.

So, by next year this time I would’ve digested Webb’s book two more times and Ogilvy the same. At least I’ll be able to tell you what’s on page 35 of each.

Bernard Alexander Mcnealy


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