Client Negotiation: A Lesson From Steve Jobs

What is at the heart of any negotiation? Two people trying to find a way to do business together.


ad agency compensation

Isn’t it time for your ad agency to get fairly compensated?

But how well equipped are agencies to negotiate in order to win – and keep – clients? Agencies often don’t know how to negotiate effectively and have a tendency to undervalue and undersell their services. Today more than ever agencies need to learn how to get compensated for the full value of their creative ideas.


Staff charged with financial negotiations, contracts, and client-agency relationships should not be the same people who are doing the work. This is to avoid the potential for bad feelings. It doesn’t matter how “good” the intentions are, or how well negotiations proceed. It’s critical that agency CEOs in particular do not lead the negotiation, as they are the ones who may, at some point, find it necessary to step in to resolve potential issues.


There are, however, many advantages an agency gains when its account staff negotiates budgets with clients before developing estimates for any new assignment. A well trained staff understands how to not leave money on the table. And just as important the agency doesn’t waste time developing solutions clients can’t afford. Coming in with an estimate that way overshoots, or even worst, comes in too low, really harms the relationship and your profits. Doing so clearly demonstrates to clients just how little you understand about their business.


Successful Client Negotiation = Fair Ad Agency Compensation

profile relationshipsOne of the first steps in successful negotiations is assessing your client’s style or profile accurately and responding to their negotiating style in the way best suited to them. There are four key profiles, based on how they work and respond. Is the client more task-oriented or people-oriented? Are they more high (tell) or low (ask) assertive? For instance, someone considered a Headline™, high assertive and high task, is focused on “now” and “results” and wants “options” presented so that they are in control of the decisions. Others, like the BodyCopy™, are more interested in “how” and “process” and respond better to fully-presented information as they check off all the pieces they want to consider.


One of the most common mistakes in negotiations is misunderstanding what the negotiations are actually concerned with (your client’s representative’s job may literally be on the line, so budget may not be as key as the client feeling confident that an agency can successfully solve the business challenge). Another problem is the agency team may not have clear goals going into negotiations, or not have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities for the negotiating team members. It’s important to remember that client negotiations are not always about the money. Look for other options, such as turnaround speed, payment terms, licensing agreements, or limits to the approval process. You many give up some money, but you will grow the client-relationship and still get fairly compensated.


Any negotiation is a balance between discovering what the client really wants and making them feel heard, with knowing exactly what your agency wants. Only then can the agency suggest a solution in such a way that the client can accept: always look for a win-win solution.


A Lesson From Steve Jobs

There is a great story the Silicon Valley venture capitalist Heidi Roizen tells about negotiating with Steve Jobs. It seems Steve didn’t like the normal royalty rate of 15 % she proposed. Steve looked at the contract, and said, “15%? That is ridiculous. I want 50%.” He then tore up the contract. “Come back at 50%, or don’t come back,” Steve said. Heidi tells the story about how after recovering from the shock, she worked hard to find out it was only the 50% number he wanted, not the cash flow. For Steve Jobs, this contract wasn’t important. The only important thing was he had promised 50% in front of staff, and he needed everyone to know he got what he wanted (classic Illustration™ profile). Heidi reworked the contract to read 50%, but it was so front-loaded she was able to still receive the normal 15% royalty. Steve was happy with his 50% contract and the deal got inked.


The Evolving Client-Agency Relationship

Every client-relationship negotiation style evolves over time. Initially, both the agency and the client are focused on trying to establish that very important personal connection. What we call trust. In this early phase, more energy must be invested in building the relationship, and this often causes negotiations to slow down as the communication gets cleared up. After the agency has worked with a client over time can there be trust. That’s when any negotiation and workflow will really smooth out. All the little annoyances get pushed to the side. This is the golden phase of every client-agency relationship: where both the client and the agency are 100% focused on work-tasks and getting the job done. However, any mistake, setback, a dropped due-date, can quickly swing that great relationship upside down. The day-to-day negotiations swing from task (getting the work out) to relationship (you don’t understand me!). And until the relationship is healed, most of the work essentially needs to, or will, come to a stop. The agency team needs to learn how to refocus their energy– not on winning, not on getting the work out, but on rebuilding trust.


One final thought: it’s important to remember that getting an agreement is the easy part. Keeping the agreement is often the hard part. If you would like to learn more sign up for High Gear Account Service Training. Just give us a call at 412.897.9329 or drop us a line at


Great pig photo by AshleyxBrooke 


Ad Agency Branding: Things I Think I Know Today, Could Change Tomorrow

I recently wrote about how DraftFCB announced its new brand is now just FCB (Foote, Cone & Belding), totally dropping the iconic name Draft.


In that article I wrote:


Many years ago, I wrote how sad it was for J. Walter Thompson, long an icon of Madison Avenue, to be re-launched under the banner of just simple ol’ JWT. The proud, strong brand was reduced to a childlike drawing, and the website reflected this misguided attempt to prove the company was creative – when its clients at the time were blue chip brands in search of strategic business building ideas. These blue chip clients were looking for a more corporate, more strategic, and definitely not childlike agency. Over the years, JWT has moved back toward something a bit more corporate, more strategic with its positioning. And just in the past couple of months, it has totally dropped the childlike fun colors in its logo and has gone to a very corporate look and feel. I hope that helps.



ad agency brandingThe agency brand is the center piece for any agency’s go-to-market strategy. And if something isn’t working, perhaps it’s time to think about the agency brand. It seems the marketplace has spoken, and today it was announced that JWT is returning to the classic J. Walter Thompson name:


“A funny thing happened on Monday morning to carefully laid plans by the giant JWT advertising agency to announce later in the year that it would bring back its longtime name, the J. Walter Thompson Company: The chief executive of the JWT parent, Martin Sorrell of WPP, let the cat out of the bag.”



I see three key strategic challenges for JWT, and frankly, most agencies. First, differentiating the agency in a highly competitive marketplace requires a revitalized client-driven positioning/branding effort. Second, with few agencies having established new business systems, they need to create a selling organization where opportunities for new business and organic client growth are pursued at every level. And finally, with the exception of a few key people, there is an experience and skills gap. This shortfall needs to be bridged immediately with an aggressive investment in training and programs dedicated to skill enhancement and support.


What Does This All Mean?

5 important ad agency branding lessons we can all learn from the efforts of FCB and JWT:

  1. Every ad agency needs to be properly branded. The agency brand carries with it certain messages to clients, prospects and employees. Most agencies are operating against a gray background without any strong positioning other than a hazy label. There is little concentrated branding going on among agencies, meaning few agencies have a clearly defined brand. Those that do really stand out.
  2. There is no clear understanding about what makes up a traditional agency. We continue to see more and more pitches involving everything from design firms to branding shops to full service marketing firms – all in the same pitch! The client today has very little understanding of how to differentiate between all the creative-options out there. Find a way to get your agency branded in a way that matters to clients.
  3. Clients are more confused than ever. Between digital, below-the-line tactics, pressure for results, metrics, brand-building, and social and buzz marketing, clients are struggling to understand the changing landscape. As clients try to get a better handle on their options, they are looking for smart, trusted partners.
  4. Amateurs study strategy; masters study logistics/operations. Getting things done in a large corporate environment takes leadership, perseverance and a good understanding of the landscape. There are many agendas at work, and it’s vital to map these out prior to attempting to implement any type of change. Execute, execute, execute! If you can offer ways to help clients navigate this environment you can be a hero.
  5. Time to return to our training roots. Changing the name or logo can help, but the truly successful agencies build the brand from within. What does the agency stand for, value the most? Use this as a building block to help with staff retention, organic growth, strategic thinking, and more. Start with the basic foundation of everyday things that people need in order to be successful: the key skills and talents that make the staff more effective. Train your staff in the hard functional skills, layer in added-value skills like negotiation tactics and conflict resolution techniques, and finish with the all important soft skills such as dress, social reminders, and the importance of personal power projection.


ad agency branding

It’s time to rethink your ad agency brand.

Most agency leaders are focused on the wrong things: deadlines or profit, business building ideas or value added services, make-work or moving the needle. As we all know, stuff will always fill any vacuum. Consequently, there is much work being done out there that doesn’t move the agency brand forward. Do a quick recon on your work-task and ensure it’s the right stuff. It’s great to see some of the more iconic agencies in our industry refocusing on their brands. The question is: will it make a difference moving forward?


It’s no longer safe to be safe. The future belongs to the bold. We have seen some whole-scale changes in the market and now we’re seeing more change sweep across businesses and our industry. Change of this size and scope creates opportunity.


Now is the time to take a step back, study your market, your clients, and your staff. Decide where you want to be in the next 3-5 years, and determine if you have the right brand to get you there.


Photo by KayRouge 




In New Business You Must Take the Lead, Keep the Lead, and Win!

Sometimes we come across a marketing firm that really wants a new business win.


win new business

You want to win the new business race going away.

Somehow they were able to get the opportunity, only to let the everyday distractions get in the way. Time, opportunity, and eventually the prospect all slip by. We all do it: get distracted, and fail at the little things that show we really want this account! Do these things and you win because you’re in the lead.


From the very first contact to the invite to pitch your agency must be:

  • The most interested
  • The most questioning
  • The most excited
  • The most helpful


At the RFP stage:

  • The best designed response
  • The best packaging
  • The most professional
  • The most tantalizing


At the agency tour stage:

  • The best organized agency
  • The cleanest agency
  • The most exciting agency
  • The best looking agency
  • The best positioned agency
  • The most interesting people
  • Looks like something on TV, or a dream, magical


At the final presentation:

  • The best presentation overall
  • The most professionally presented
  • The best room set-up
  • The best presentation team
  • The best rehearsed agency
  • The clearest recommendations


Key thought: It’s difficult to win first place from back in the pack! But it sure is easy to lose with one simple mistake!


An Odds on Favorite Tough Lesson


And they’re off… 

Recently I was helping an agency overseas where the competition was really tough. The agency was invited into a highly-competitive shoot out with the best agencies in the country. With our help the agency had taken the lead from the start. They were the most interested, sent in the best RFP, offered the best tour.


Jockeying for position…

We had decided early to win on strategy, not creative. We tantalized the prospect with our strategic development process using the presentation tour process where we demonstrated how Benefit Testing worked. The prospect was hooked.


Into the backstretch…

But at the last minute the creative director came up with a flash of inspiration built around a new line that was “soooo perfect.” There was only one problem, however. The new line was off strategy. The creative director convinced the agency owner to change everything at the last minute to the new line.


Photo finish… 

The prospect, Body Copy (focus is on process, details, experience and price) to the core, spotted the mismatch, and in the midst of the presentation, stopped everything and demanded an answer. The agency had none. Later we found out the agency had won the account with the Benefit Testing process and the tour and all they needed to do was show up at the presentation and not make a mistake. That didn’t happen and the largest account in the country went to another agency. That one hurt.


Photo by AndersStangl

Dazed And Confused: Tips For Running an Ad Agency

During our work with thousands of high performing ad agencies (and scores of ‘lower’ performers), we have identified a few ingredients that help create a nimble and highly profitable firm.

ad agency process tips

Change is inevitable; Leaders create order.


If you want to understand how an ad agency operates, you must first understand the crazy world they live in. Change drives everything in most agencies – changes to the project, clients, staff, art work, edits, redos, revisions, reprinting, repurpose and on and on. These are the words agencies live by. And somehow they end up making it all work. Most of the time.


For those times it doesn’t work, here are four simple ingredients that can help smooth out your daily operations. All of them are readily achievable and do not require that the agency ‘re-engineer’ itself in the process. Without them, agencies react ineffectively and inefficiently each day – squandering resources, frustrating staff and disappointing clients. They are as follows:


1. Job Classification Program

All projects, clients and tasks are not created equal – so why do they all have the same priority and follow the same process through the agency? Differentiating work by type and developing priorities and processes that reflect the nature of the job can quickly free up an abundance of agency resources.


There are three primary categories of jobs in an agency. Over 70% of jobs at a typical agency are relatively simple edits or revisions to existing campaigns – we call these the Bread and Butter (B&B) projects. Another 20% to 25% of the jobs of the agency require new thinking, new creative and/or provide the agency with an opportunity to truly demonstrate its capabilities – these are the Reels and Awards (R&A) projects. Finally, less than 10% of an agency’s projects represent opportunities to fundamentally re-position a brand or a client’s marketing strategy. These typically take the form of integrated campaigns and new business pitches. These are the Case Study (CS) projects.


Each of these different projects has a substantially different worth and impact on the agency. Attempting to run each type of project through the same agency development, review and production cycles creates a tremendous burden on the agency’s people and systems – and dramatically degrades the agency’s true capabilities. Agencies who harness the power of chaos have learned how to categorize and process each of these different project types so that, taken together, they focus agency resources where they can do the most good – and allow the agency to make money on even the smallest of projects.


2. Account Service Redux

Account Service has been unjustly neutered and emasculated during the last decade. Much of this they have brought upon themselves. When account service allowed themselves to believe that they were, in fact, order takers, bag carriers and client handlers, they quickly lost credibility with their clients and their fellow employees. There would/should be little or no need for Account Planning if Account Services had not ceded their rights and responsibilities.


Any good creative will tell you that their best friend is a good account person. There are two dimensions of Account Service that are even more critical to success in today’s chaotic environment. First, they have to reclaim their rights and duty to developing and managing the client’s brand and marketing communications strategies. They need to do this by being the first to immerse themselves in the brand. All of the ‘little’ things that account staff used to do need to be resurrected. This means everything from talking with consumers to walking the supermarket aisles to using the client’s product. Besides knowledge, all of these little things add up to credibility. Account Service must get back its credibility – and it starts in the trenches.


Secondly, a good Account Service professional totally manages the work of the client – throughout its life cycle – none of this throwing it over the wall stuff. Account Service must nurture, cajole, beg, borrow and steal to get its work developed, produced and, more importantly, valued by and billed to the client.


And lastly, Account Service staff must know how to grow their client in a win-win manner. They understand the power of  Value Based Initiatives and take control of setting up consultant arrangements with good clients. The answer for agencies is to train their account teams in new skills, showing them how to work smarter, not harder. And High Gear, a high impact, one-day on-site learning experience for account service is the best way to do that.


3. The Perfect Kickoff

One of the greatest contributors to wasted effort, rework, revisions and general staff frustration can be easily avoided by starting any and every project on the right foot. This kickoff varies depending upon the type of project, but it is a critical ingredient to any success. While every agency has some form of project initiation meeting, roughly 99% of them never follow them. Projects seem to arise out of the ether and just arrive in media or creative – typically a day or two before concepts are due.


The solution is to be absolutely rigid about project kickoffs. A different kickoff with differing requirements is created for each different job classification. Each project is classified into one of the three types, and that classification is approved by the executive chairing the traffic meeting. Kickoff meetings (for Reel and Portfolio or Case Study projects) follow an agreed upon agenda and are led by the newly empowered account staff. The people that must attend, do so, or send an appropriate designee (who fully briefs them afterwards). A preliminary draft of the Creative and/or Media Brief is circulated and finalized during the meeting. Critical target dates are agreed upon and responsibilities are clearly assigned. The accompanying box summarizes key attributes of successful kickoffs for each type of project.


4. Timekeeping for Fun and Profit

Finally, the age-old challenge of filling out time sheets. What used to be a chronic annoyance for agency accounting is quickly becoming a mission critical (i.e. profit) requirement for fee-based accounts. At one agency with a large fee account, the agency learned six months into the year that it had only accounted for 25% of 80 people’s time that had been budgeted into the original account agreement. That translates into at least $3 million missing from the bottom line – salaries were still paid, of course! That is a lot to try to recoup before the end of the year.


There is no magic bullet, of course – although one is tempted to find one and shoot the offenders. We’ve seen agencies withhold the direct deposit of paychecks and force offenders to pick up their check from the agency president (with completed time sheets in hand). Others have tried putting time and expense reports on the same form – no expense reimbursements without time sheets. You can try assigning responsibilities to departmental assistants who either get their people to fill them out, or fill them out for them. But the most effective has always been to make time sheet completion an employee evaluation criteria and tie them to bonuses.


Mostly, conquering the time sheet challenge is a cultural and leadership issue. Leaders must lead by example and not accept unprofessional behavior from their staff. Filling out time sheets must be treated as a fundamental part of being a professional and prospering in a career. Stan Richards of the Richards Group loves to share his approach with new hires. During their orientation he explains that for them to put one more hour on a job than they actually worked is the equivalent of going to the client’s accounting department and taking $100 bill out of the cash register – and to under-report their work by one hour is the equivalent of stealing $100 out of his wallet.


Reporting accurate time is more critical than ever if an agency is to get everything it has coming to it. Over time, it also is critical for the agency to have good ‘actuals’ so that it knows how to price its services in the future. This is one area where the consultants shine next to their agency counterparts. If agencies want to play in this arena, they must develop the same discipline, and ultimately, the same pride in the time they put into helping their clients succeed.


Tips For Running An Ad Agency 

Running any firm where your key product is subject to constant change would drive any leader crazy. And this is why, perhaps, so many ad agency leaders always have a slightly dazed and confused look about them. Agreeing to be the leader of a nut-house means you’re willing to give up any semblance to a normal life and that you’re willing to dedicate all your energy into making the agency work. Profitably. For you, your family, your staff, and your clients. You’re not trying to solve any specific problem; you’re committing to solve enough to get results.


Taking control of the things you can control: types of jobs, kick offs, account service, and time sheets, can make the rest a bit easier. Perhaps allowing you to go home early a few nights and tuck your family in bed.



Photo by Hazadess 

Building Relationships In A Pitch


I was recently published in iMedia Communications with an article on 10 relationship tips to win the pitch:


It’s not always easy to discern what makes the best creative. Which qualities are the most important? One thing is for sure: The best presentation usually wins. But what makes a winning presentation? Consider the six-easel approach, for example. It’s low tech but high touch and shows off an agency’s talent. It’s a strategy focused on creative approach, rather than actual materials. Often format and style win over content due to the all-important emotional factor. Your presentation should be like that runaway Hollywood blockbuster film: filled with suspense, highs, lows, and a thrilling climax. You want to elicit an emotional response.


As they say, go read the whole thing. Some outstanding tips on how to create a winning presentation.


winning the pitch

This is your chance… don’t blow it!

Most ad agencies usually see pitch opportunities in one of two ways. First, many agencies view presentations as a game of chance or luck. Here the thinking continues that if an agency makes enough presentations, an opportunity to be selected will come up. Just do your best and hope for some good luck.


The second false belief is “the best creative always wins.” This is rarely the case. The agency that presents the best usually wins the presentation if its creative is appropriate. Winning custom presentations is all in understanding the prospect’s needs, their selection process, the personalities involved and the strategies that will fit best.


Winning Ad Agency Pitch Presentation 

Our Presenting To Win training is designed to show you how to win. This is need-to-know information for all members of the agency staff involved in developing and making custom presentations to prospects.


Presenting To Win Deliverables:

  • Mastery of the best presenting techniques
  • Increased productivity as participants learn what’s important in a presentation, how to save time and agency resources, and how to keep the agency’s normal work flowing while the agency prepares for a major presentation
  • Better pitch strategy as participants learn how to win over key members of the prospect review panel prior to the actual presentation, how to tantalize the prospect after the presentation
  • An understanding of how to transform the agency’s own offices into a powerful closing machine
  • Information on how to work with agency search consultants to win them over before the pitch


Some of our top posts on how to win:



Photo Credit, David Niblack,

Undecided What To Do About New Business?

Want to get your agency growing? Order in a DayOne right away. It’ll bring clarity to your efforts, consensus to your management team, and peace of mind to you that you are getting serious about new business and taking positive first steps.


Request a DayOne On-Site Evaluation.

ad agency new business

Don’t just survive – soar.

1. What is DayOne?

DayOne is a one-day new business assessment and planning session conducted by a senior consultant from Sanders Consulting Group at the agency. It’s one-third evaluation, one-third reporting, and one-third new business planning. It’s the most important new business day in an agency’s life.

2. What’s the purpose of DayOne?

To show agency senior management the various options for dramatic growth, which skills are most needed, and how a full new business program would work complete with time lines and expected payout.

3. What makes up a typical DayOne day?

    • Early morning meeting with agency owners/senior managers to determine agency direction and future plans.
    • One-on-one interviews with senior and middle managers that know the agency’s new business efforts best.
    • Working session with the agency’s senior management to assess the agency’s new business strengths and weaknesses and agreement on the best way to proceed.
    • Evaluation, consensus and priority on the agency’s basic new business skills in 12 different areas.
    • Development of a calendar and timeline, lists of tasks, and key responsibilities with expected completion dates.
    • Supported with 100-page manual and planning guide to keep the discussion on track.
    • Ends with a private assessment and feedback session with recommendations for action.
    • Summarized in a detailed conference report back to agency ownership.

4. What is the cost of a DayOne?

The cost is $2000 for the day plus normal travel expenses. There are no other charges.

5. Is DayOne a standard program and the same for every agency?

No. Each agency is unique with certain challenges and opportunities that are different from every other agency. Therefore our DayOnes tend to be very different and are customized to the specific needs of each agency. There is no one-size-fits-all mentality.

6. What happens if the agency isn’t satisfied with the outside assignment?

DayOne, just like all our products and services, is delivered on a money-back guarantee basis which means if the agency isn’t satisfied, then the agency doesn’t pay.

7. When should an agency request a DayOne?

    • We find it a good practice for an agency with a smooth running new business system to organize a new business DayOne evaluation and planning day every two years. This tends to keep the skills sharp and the agency on focus. An outside moderator makes sure all points of view are heard and will be able to ask the tough questions needed to maximize performance.
    • For agencies with a new business process that is under performing, an immediate new business DayOne retreat will help get the program back on track. The evaluation will show what skill areas are most weak and what outside intervention can correct most quickly.
    • For an agency with a new team and many new players, the new business DayOne retreat will help build consensus, bring all members of the team up to speed together and focus the agency on the importance of new business.
    • For senior managers who are undecided on the best way to improve new business, a DayOne planning session is golden. The day-long planning session will crystallize the best direction to go, the best methods to follow, where the agency’s strengths and weaknesses really are and give an outside evaluation that helps senior management understand how bad the situation really is.


To schedule a DayOne retreat at your agency, call Sanders Consulting Group at 412.897.9329 or email New business help is just a click away.


Photo by mogyphoto 


Hawk Tails: Interview with Fred Goldberg

Have you ever wondered what it was like in the crazy days of advertising during the greatest boom of our time?


ad business

Fred S. Goldberg

I mean what it was really like? If you want to get a real insider view of the marketing world pick up Fred Goldberg’s new book The Insanity of Advertising (Memoirs of a Mad Man). In Fred’s words, this is a collection of stories gleaned from 30 cartons of materials, over a 35-year period, based on “real, absolutely truthful, on the ground intel from someone who saw it happening right before his eyes.”


Fred entered advertising in 1967, and has led some of the greatest agencies in history: Young & Rubicam, Chiat/Day and Goldberg Moser O’Neill. His experience reads like a who’s who of great advertising visionaries, and his work included the most iconic ad of all history—the Apple 1984 Super Bowl commercial.


If you don’t know Fred’s name, and you’re in advertising, shame on you. Now go buy the damn book and learn something about our crazy, insane, wonderful, funny, world of advertising. After all, Fred said: “I was a Mad Man having started my advertising career in the 60s on Madison Avenue. And some might argue that ‘Madison Avenue’ is a state of mind, but back then the preponderance of agencies located on and around Madison Avenue and the way they did business was pervasive. You could also conclude that many people who worked in the ad business were either angry, crazy or totally ego driven. All of which is reflected in the Mad Man moniker.”


NewBusinessHawk 10 Questions on the Ad Business:


1. How did you get into advertising?

I went away to college to become a brain surgeon and didn’t get through organic chemistry and zoology. Went to grad school and was accepted into the doctoral program which I didn’t complete. Was asked to join Young & Rubicam which was one of the ad agencies servicing my first employer. Didn’t know what I was getting into but it sounded like fun.


2. First job in the business?

Market Research Analyst at a Beer Company. P. Ballantine & Sons in Newark, NJ.


3. New business is really the art of ____________?



Care to explain?

There is a lot that goes into new business: hard work, creative canvassing, repetition, clever positioning, selling on many levels, credibility and trust and luck and timing. But being determined and keeping at whatever it is…a specific target client, a certain industry, etc. it requires, in my mind, keeping the flow and connection with relevant communication.


4. A pitch is really all about _____________?



And why?

From the client perspective I think it’s about reviewing the process, the people and the work from an agency. From the agency it should be about whether this client is a good fit and really wants to do intrusive and meaningful communications. Will they accept new ideas? Too often I think clients want to be associated with the creative agencies, but when it comes time to promote their product it becomes different from all the ones you showed on your reel and print book.


5. What was your worst new business experience? Lessons learned?

I have had many. Don’t know how to identify the ‘worst’ one. On the one hand, arriving at the Nintendo prospects offices in Seattle and our bags/materials went to Vancouver. We presented off of back up 8×10 decks and had no work to show. We were the only one of the five agencies that didn’t present speculative work and not because the bags got lost. We lost the business because I got in an argument with the CEO over this issue.

Maybe not the ‘worst’ but the hardest was pitching Sony Playstation. We got down to the finals against Chiat/Day, which was the agency I had purchased Goldberg Moser O’Neill from. Obviously, I wanted to win this one for more reasons than I can put down here. We spent an enormous amount of time, money and emotion, only to lose out in the end.


6. What do you consider to be your most satisfying new business pitch?

A surprising inside look at  unbelievable and sometimes astonishing happenings in the ad business.

A surprising inside look at unbelievable and sometimes astonishing happenings in the ad business.

By far the most satisfying was winning the KIA Motors business when they were first introducing to America. We had some minor opportunities in pitching a car account before that, but this turned out to be the real deal. It was a challenge, and they had a small but significant budget. Most of all they seemed to desire the kind of work we did. We had a brilliant strategy. And unlike the other agencies in this review, we did not present speculative work although we did put together a truly great 15-minute strategic positioning piece, which I am certain played importantly in our winning the business. Oh and when we showed it, I had Korean sub-titles in place so not to leave the translation to the American executives. There is a chapter on this in my book.

But frankly to answer this question I could have put down a dozen more that made me very satisfied. In fact, whenever I won a piece of business, large or small, I was very happy.


7. If you could change one thing in this business it would be?

Shoot all the articulate incompetents. And then shoot all the bullshitters.


8. What do you think marketing will be like in 10 years?

Different. Very different.


9. Advice you would give the 25-year old you?

Read the Insanity of Advertising before deciding on advertising as a career.


10. If you had to start an agency today it would be focused on? And why?

I wouldn’t. I think the business has changed so significantly that I wouldn’t know where to start. I think someone needs to figure out how to create and implement new ideas of communication in this new world. They haven’t really as yet. When they do, being the most clever and creative company delivering fresh and unique and persuasive communications would remain my focus if I had to start an agency.


Any final thoughts?



You can read more about the book, the ads, and the man here:


Good Luck With The Future Of Advertising

Recently, we were called in to help a small five-person marketing firm set up a new business system.


future of advertising

Isn’t it time to create a little luck?

After a day-long session, they decided that their “new” brand, something they had spent over a year working on, was out of touch with the realities of our rapidly changing market. After all that hard work they needed to go back and rework everything. Luckily we were able to help them and very quickly outlined a new brand for them. A little extra effort for us, but wasn’t it lucky we caught it before they went to market? But was it really just good luck? Or was it hard work?


Many ad agency leaders are sitting behind closed doors worrying about the sweeping changes we see throughout the industry. They’ve started to notice that the trend is not good. Many have questioned the future of advertising, the future of ad agencies, and wondered where it’s all heading. A few leaders have even complained publicly about the poor attitudes towards agency compensation and fees. Really, they are all bemoaning the loss of an era of advertising as we watch a new one being born. The simple fact is that in our rapidly changing world it really is true that “the only constant is change.” This is proving to be a real downer for many advertising agencies.


There is little anyone can do to control external industry-wide factors; all we can do is better prepare our agencies for change. Perhaps agencies can create a little luck and survive the sweeping changes along the way.


Create Your Own Good Luck

As we get closer to St. Patrick’s Day, it seems timely to discuss the so called “luck of the Irish.” As any student of history knows, there is very little lucky about the Emerald Isle. Two-thousand years of Viking, Norman, and English invasions, civil wars, wars between Catholics and Protestants, exploitation, starvation and mass emigration does not seem to indicate that the Irish had good luck. Yet this week we run around celebrating leprechauns, four-leaf clovers and finding that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.


So why do we feel the Irish are lucky? It would appear that here in the United States, the Irish immigrants were able to move up the social ladder relatively quickly. Therefore, everyone just assumed they were lucky.


The reality of the rapid success of the Irish had little to do with luck. There are several traits that really benefited the Irish. And perhaps these same traits can help your advertising agency (even if you’re not Irish).


  • First, they networked through churches, fraternal and benevolent societies. They reached out to build networks to help find new opportunities, new leads, teach, learn and provide assistance to those less fortunate. So work hard to expand your network. Look around and find groups to expand your network and reach. Never hesitate to ask for help, and always reach out a helping hand. The return will be worth it.
  • Second, they knew how to sell. Blarney, or the gift of gab, is nothing more than putting a positive spin on any situation. Becoming masters of selling by using the gift of gab to win the hearts and minds of prospects is a great lesson for every agency today. Too many agencies go into a prospect meeting with that hint of desperation, of fear, of defeat, even before they pitch. The sweeping changes in our market have made everyone a little fearful. Understandable, given the industry, but nothing turns prospects off faster than desperation. Put a little Irish blarney in your pitch and you’ll likely win more business.
  • Third, the Irish were experts at branding, even if they didn’t do it deliberately. The Irish community in America projected a strong image: one of hard working, scrappy, perhaps with a bit of partying, and of course, very lucky individuals. They were known as the “Fighting Irish” and were not willing to sit back and wait for a handout. The long history of suffering didn’t matter. The hate and prejudice they encountered didn’t deter them. They went forth and fought for their friends and family to make a better life. They created a new image that was uniquely American. And the myth of Irish luck was born; created out of nothing more than hard work.


On this week of celebrating all things Irish, take to heart their lessons involving luck. Expand your network, reach out and offer a helping hand. Get out of the office and join some groups of like minded firms. Be positive about your agency. Refocus your brand on the positive changes. And keep working hard. Remember the old Irish proverb: “You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind.”


Remember that luck is simply preparation meeting opportunity. That’s what the Irish did– they made their own luck. Instead of continuing to gripe about how the world of marketing is changing, prepare your agency, position it as positive about the changes and equipped to lead the charge. Your agency needs to be willing to work hard, help clients navigate the changes we all see, and to create new opportunities for growth.


We feel agency leaders need to get their heads around the facts, look over their brand and their service promise, take some lessons from the Irish, and generate a little luck. After all, it’s only by sheer luck any of us fools could ever succeed in this crazy industry. Now go tip a pint, and cheers!


Photo by Gismonda999