Tales from Adland’s front: “Your idea is so bad it will cause Armageddon!”
July 30, 2015
“Save us from Steff’s terrible idea!”
Well into my first job at Leo Burnett, I experienced a situation that at first sucked all the life out of me and then later swooshed it back in. In other words a horrible event followed by a wonderful one. Recently, I recounted this tale to a few members on my current creative team. They seemed to appreciate the drama. Maybe you will, too.
The situation involved two classic “types” in Adland: the impetuous creative (me) and the type-A account director, whose name I’ve withheld out of decency. (Trust me, I haven’t forgotten it.)
Numerous teams (remember resources?) had been working for perhaps two months (remember time?) on a major creative presentation for a longstanding Burnett client (remember AOR’s?). Anyway, I had an idea that I felt quite strongly about. I still recall the many hours and evenings I’d spent working on it. As a newly minted creative director, I was even more excited than usual to present my idea to the rest of my colleagues. If I was afraid of receiving criticism I don’t remember that now. I was confident.
You’ve probably guessed the next plot point in this narrative. The account director hated my idea. I don’t recollect any of the strategic reasons he may have provided because of something he’d said that overpowered all that. After debating my campaign a few minutes, this dude put his foot down. “Look,” he said to me, my boss and everyone else in the room, “if we show this idea to the client tomorrow we will lose the business. It will be Armageddon.”
Offensive enough that he believed my work was so terrible it would lose business. But what really hurt was his use of the “A” word. Armageddon. Really dude? Do you think that little of my brains or, for that matter, the client’s? Try this “A” word on for size: Asshole.
As much as I wanted to put the man in his place, I held my tongue. Perhaps because he was going to “allow” me to show my idea – even if only as a backup. Whatever. I made a silent vow right then and there. Against all odds, I was going to sell my idea. And then I was going to spike it right in his face.
Not a big believer in rehearsing, that night I did. I wanted so f-cking much to have my idea validated and my ego vindicated. Nothing short of victory would do.
The day of reckoning came and so did I, delivering as good a presentation as I ever will. No one else had a chance. When it was over I stood by and watched as the CMO thanked our account director for bringing him such a powerful and wise idea. Then it was my turn: I approached my speechless colleague. “Welcome to Armageddon,” I said. And then I left him to pack up the black bag with my work.