Anyone in the business of advertising has encountered her or his fair share of remarkably interesting clients. Of course, some clients are interesting but for strange reasons. These are the clients you remember for saying or doing things that seemed strange at the time, and with time seem just as strange.
Among my favorite stories in this vein is a conference call I was on with a client about some collateral we were producing along with a direct mail piece (anyone remember direct mail, anyone?). In our conversation, the client brought up his annual report, something we would happily assist him in producing. The discussion ambled on about timing and pricing, tone and distribution, until the client came to ask, “What do suppose the shelf life of annual report is?” Fortunately, there are mute buttons on phones. But in this case, I was so dumbstruck that I didn’t need one and couldn’t bring myself to say anything for a few moments before asking, “What makes you ask that?” He said, “I was just wondering if you had any insight on that.” I believe it was at this moment that an account guy chimed in with a dodge about how we were being kicked out of the meeting room and would have to get back to him. Account guys. Gotta love ’em. Sometimes, anyway. Maybe the answer came to our client later on. Maybe not. It never came up again.
Another favorite came during my early days at an agency I had just joined. We were doing some research on some ads we were developing. Trying to gauge their effectiveness, believability, that sort of thing. Or so I imagined going in. Research started out as such gatherings always do. Introductions all around. When did you get in? What hotel? Picking over the breakfast buffet. Slowly downing our Starbucks coffees. Then our first subject showed up, and the interviewer proceeded to share the ad comps with the prospect, asking the questions one might expect. The interview concluded and afterwards the interviewer came back and “huddled” with us. The clients and the other agency folks exchanged thoughts on how things went. What was doing well. What not so well. Then the fun started. What if we change the layout and amp up the benefits more? Maybe it would work better if we didn’t show any people? Do we need a snipe? Or maybe we should just show women, they’re our real target. Yes, yes. Nods all around. Then they called the agency production studio and told them to make some changes to the ad so we could have them in time for the next interview. They even brought along a color printer to run them out. I looked about and wondered if I was the only person who found this a tad strange. But everyone agreed this course of action would yield some great insights. Into what I was not sure. This went on throughout the day and into the next. Interviews. Huddles. Revisions. Interviews. Each prospect reviewing something different in each interview. Being the new guy I kept mum, wondering, my god, what have I gotten myself into?
Everyone in the business is familiar with stranger things I’m sure. Send me yours — firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright ©2017 John Hofmeister | Illustration by formerfactory
When I'm not writing for clients, I write about things that interest me. Quite of bit of satire, a genre that has become increasingly difficult to work in since reality has become such a farce.