An agency anecdote from a holiday party a few 24 hours ago…

December 18, 2009

“Tell me your name again, sweetheart.”

Our agency had its Christmas party yesterday. It was a swell affair and a mood of gratitude pervaded the room. In a most challenging year, we came through relatively unharmed and with much to look forward to. (I hope you and yours can say the same.) The following is an excerpt from my  message to the agency…

My father, Larry Postaer likes to tell a story about his old boss, the fabled ad executive, Keith Reinhard. For those who don’t know who he is, Keith essentially built and ran what is now DDB Chicago. He was also instrumental in creating the most successful (and least maligned) advertising holding company in the world: Omnicom.

Many years ago, Keith Reinhard was holding court at his office holiday Party. The agency had recently renamed itself DDB (from Needham, Harper & Steers) and quite a crowd was on hand. In fact, it’s very likely our own Ron Bess was there!

Anyway, an executive assistant introduces herself to Keith. Despite having worked at the company for many years, it quickly became apparent to her that he did not know who she was. Having had her share of liquid courage, the woman gave Mr. Reinhard a piece of her mind. Needless to say, Keith was mortified. Not at the employee’s conduct but at his own.

Later, the following year, my dad is attending a cocktail party at Keith’s apartment. While using the bathroom he sees a file containing photographs and biographical information on every, single employee at DDB. Be creepy if the reason wasn’t so sincere.

Apparently, Keith had been so traumatized by his earlier snafu he’d made it a point to memorize every person’s name at the company. That’s right; he went through the file whenever he sat down on the throne! For all Keith’s many professional achievements, this anecdote about him is my favorite.

Obviously, I have a feeling Keith would not mind being talked about this way. People were that important to him. Still are. What’s the old cliché about ad agencies? The only thing of value in them is the people. Something to think about this holiday season. God bless!

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