Unlike construction, in Adland overages and overtime are almost always the agency’s problem.

October 11, 2012


“The plumber fell in a hole. We need another month.”

We are having work done on the home we purchased in California. The job was to be done in time for my family’s arrival here from Chicago. They came and our house wasn’t ready. Not even close. We rented a place, which means two mortgages. Two Marin County mortgages. The new delivery date was scheduled for the beginning of my daughters’ school year. They are now in class but we are not in our house. Yesterday, for the third time in three months, the contractors are telling me the property won’t be ready until Thanksgiving, give or take a week. They have their usual reasons. The countertops aren’t ready. The electrician got ill. A carpenter had to go back to Mexico. Blah, blah, blah.

I sigh and open my checkbook. We sign another lease on the rental house. Bye, bye savings. I tell my wife the kids will require scholarships in order to go to college. I am only half joking.

In all my years of fixing up homes, I have yet to experience an on time job completion. Nor has one ever come in at the agreed upon budget. Such are the two basic rules of renovation: It costs more and takes longer.

This brings me to the point of my tale, the one that relates to advertising. As I reflect on my considerable time in the trenches of Adland, it dawns on me that we marketing contractors are not entitled to the same grace from clients as our friends in the construction trade. Not hardly. Missing an agreed upon completion date is unheard of, no matter the reason. If a job ends up costing more than the budgeted number we eat it. Sure, a client may accept certain incremental costs but it is among the most painful asks in our industry. Subsequently, it is a card we seldom play. To do so would cause irreparable harm to the “relationship.”


“So, we’re going over. No worries. The agency will cover it.”

Yet creating and producing an integrated marketing campaign is rife with intangibles. I don’t care who you are building a website or producing a set of commercials is never a no-brainer. Shit happens. We bake these costs into our preliminary number but those are the first to go when clients balk at the budget, which they invariably do. And so we agree on a cost with no margin for error. Therefore, errors don’t happen. When (not if) something goes wrong (new music, new copy, new code, etc.) we are eternally culpable.

Is this fair? Of course not. But that’s advertising. While things inevitably cost more and take longer to make, in Adland it is the contractor who pays the price.

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