“Reps” are people, too.
October 1, 2008
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.