“Reps” are people, too.

October 1, 2008

“Would you like to see something in a 30-second spot?”

I saw three artist representatives in the last couple weeks. Two came by my office. The other took me to lunch. We caught up on the latest dish, commiserated about certain struggling agencies and, oh yes, looked at some work.

That’s three more reps than I’ve seen in all of 2008. Frankly, it’s about as many reps as I’ve seen in the 21st century. You see my M.O. has historically been to pass on such activities, even if they included free lunch, dinner, theater tickets or other goodies. I just didn’t have the time or inclination.

It’s the inclination part I want to discuss. Because who isn’t pressed for time? “Too busy” is the default excuse for just about everything, including blowing off people. Desire is the more intriguing element. If I’m honest I’ve had little desire to visit with reps, let alone view their wares. Very little. And so I seldom did. Until now.

And I’m not alone. Many of my peers groan at the prospect of dealing with reps. I hear them making the same excuses when cold called: “Jesus, I’m sorry. I’d love to see Sid’s work, but I’ve got clients in today…all week actually.” Or, the more upbeat hand-off: “You should call (another creative in your agency). He’s looking for directors right now!”

Why is that? Why are we always “busy” when reps come to call? They fulfill a need, apprising us of the latest and best work in our industry. They are socially adept and positive people (despite dealing with the likes of us). And they often come baring gifts. So, what’s not to like? Why are we such dicks to them?

Is it because they are trying to sell us something? You’d think we of all people would be compassionate to other salesmen.

My mother, Christine Montet used to be an art buyer for several agencies in Chicago. Her last stint was at FCB, prior to the merger with Draft. (That regime fired her, which, as it happens, probably added years to her life.) Anyway, mom adored seeing reps. She appreciated them as vendors and as people. Many of these reps are still friends with her now. She grew frustrated with me, when I spoke dismissively of them. Mom said I was rude as well as stupid. I think she was right.


4 Responses to ““Reps” are people, too.”

  1. Jim Ferguson said

    I have never understood why reps were often treated so poorly. Makes no sense to me, either. I have always set aside time to look at reels, books, etc. I consider it invaluable. I have always loved “discovering” new talent. Plus, reps always have been the best recruiters, as well, telling me about young creatives in other agencies I would have never heard of. If I had been “too busy” to talk to a rep, I would have never met great people like Tom Mooney, Carol Case, Mary Ford, etc. who have all become friends. There’s only one problem, there is only one of me and hundreds of them, and I don’t have time to see everyone as much as I would like to.
    Jim Ferguson
    PS…Love the blog.

  2. SRP said

    Thanks for weighing in.
    When I was new, and part of the “Bell Boys” at Burnett, I remember getting taken to long boozy lunches by Roy Skillicorn AKA “Repmaster Roy.” 20 years later, the guy is still an awesome date!

  3. Kevin Mann said

    I moved away 14 years ago and I used to really enjoy meeting with the reps, especially Tom Maloney and Joni Tuke. I still have a Nike poster that I got from one of them framed on my wall.

    In a much smaller market(Syracuse/Rochester), reps simply don’t exist. And now any awareness of illustrators and photographers come to me by email.

    You just don’t get that human touch and confidence from an email reference that you get when someone is as vitally interested in a positive outcome for the project as you are.

  4. Jim Ferguson said

    I’ll never forget one of the boozy lunches at the Boul Mich with Ray Lafaro. He took a boy into the sandhills and brought back a man, that day! Ray was great. He showed me Joe Pytka’s reel and the didn’t even rep Joe. He just loved showing great work!

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