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“C’mon angel, that leaked memo was pretty sweet.”

My last post on advertising agency, Cramer-Krasselt parting ways with client, Panera Bread garnered more views in one day than any other in this blog’s history. On June 13, several thousand of you read my story about a frustrated agency CEO having reached his wit’s end with a client. He’d written a memo to his staff, which had been “leaked.” For the record, the story wasn’t my “get.” I’d learned about it from a piece in AdAge. I know from experience agencies seldom let go clients let alone provide messy details. The fact that I once had unpleasant dealings with this client made writing about it impossible to resist.

Given the boffo amount of readers the post attracted I guess I am glad I wrote my story. I “guess” because although I am grateful to anyone who reads my blog, I wish I received those numbers for my other less sensational stories. I get it though. There was more than a hint of gossipy revelation (leaked memo!) in the reporting and we all know that chum attracts fish.

Controversy sells. Duh.

Not surprisingly, the second most-read story I’ve ever written was on the controversial closing of the Chicago office of J Walter Thompson. This was big news in Adland, especially in my hometown Chicago. I knew a lot of the people involved and had almost worked there myself. It too was a tale soaked in chum.

Interestingly, the third most viewed piece was nothing like the first two; it was an essay I’d written on our tendency to “front” on Facebook. I’d been seeing a lot of shiny, happy faces on the platform and was curious to explore why. I loved that story but I know the reason why it got so many hits was only because WordPress chose to “freshly press” it, for which I am grateful.

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“Let me tell you about last night…”

There’s a brilliant episode of the Simpson’s where, in typically surreal fashion, Homer finds himself teaching a self-help class on marriage. He quickly learns in order to keep his class interested he must reveal intimate details about his love life. Much to his wife’s dismay the class quickly becomes the talk of the town. Things escalate. Despite Marge’s pleas, Homer finds it nearly impossible to stop gossiping about his marriage. The rush he gets from all the attention is too intoxicating. That is until everything blows up in his face.

Because I am mostly not a cartoon I cannot allow things to blow up in my face. Unlike Homer, I like my job. Therefore, I’m afraid most of my posts will continue to be about ad campaigns, consumerism and popular culture. But I am an addict and I did like seeing that massive spike in my dashboard. So you never know…

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Getting treated like shit gets old…

I got an inordinate amount of traction from a link I shared on Facebook about a leaked memo from Cramer-Krasselt’s Chief Executive, Peter Krivkovich, regarding his agency’s resignation of the Panera Bread account. Claiming the client was “much too much even in this crazy business” what with “the constant last-minute shifts in direction, the behind-the-scenes politics, the enormous level of subjectivity that disregards proof of performance…” Well, it got to the point where “enough was enough.” Here is the story: http://adage.com/article/agency-news/cramer-krasselt-panera-part-ways/293668/

Wow.

Inside an agency comments like these are often voiced but they are seldom put on paper and distributed. Even rarer is resigning an account. Here we are privy to both events. And while the matter is basically none of our business, it hits home. Why? Well, first off agencies don’t resign business because for most of us winning it is so damn hard. That’s an obvious thing. A money thing. Providing reasons for firing a client in a memo is virtually unheard of because bad clients do not get outed in Adland. Period. Sometimes for legal reasons (fear of reprisals, etc) but mostly because we are scared other clients might think ill of us for doing so. The reasoning, I suppose, is that we do not want to be perceived as weak under pressure. Deeper down we do not want to be associated with failure, even when it most definitely isn’t. Our insecurities (financial as well as psychological) are profound. It’s kind of like admitting divorce in the 1950’s. A stigma.

That said, I would bet the ranch not a soul reading Krivkovich’s memo, or the news about it, feels anything untoward about CK. On the contrary. Thank God, we think, someone finally put principles before business!

But you know what? A despicable client is bad business. Peter’s memo provides ample proof. And while none of us were there, I know for a fact that this particular client is not nearly as delightful as the wholesome products they sell.

At my previous agency we pitched Panera. During a critical conference call the client neglected to press the mute button. My team was subjected to a litany of mockery and abuse from them. Ouch. Awkward but shit like that happens, right? Thinking we are in confidence people say mean things. Make bad jokes. Et-cetera. I don’t necessarily begrudge Panera that. The thing I’ll never forget was hearing the pitch leader, a punk consultant they’d hired, tell his colleagues that my agency stood no chance of winning, and never had; when just moments ago he’d outlined expectations for all this work he demanded we do. That is unconscionable. We work too f*cking hard, almost always on spec, to be treated so shabbily. Like tokens.

Of course, we abdicated from the pitch. Yet, bitter as we were we didn’t go public about it. We never even told the client what we’d heard. We did what most every other agency in our unfortunate position would do: Nothing. But like a dead rat caught behind the drywall the stink lasted a long, long time.

And so I’ve no doubt my peers at CK came to the same conclusions about this client and resigned the business, albeit after servicing them for nearly two years. By the way, the agency before CK (Mullen, the one we’d lost to) also parted with them in similar circumstances.

And so whether Krivkovich intended his memo to get out or not, I’m glad it did. Maybe the next group of agencies who go after this client –perhaps yours- will think twice. I doubt it. But consider yourself warned!

Finally, I had to roll my eyes at Peter’s closing lines in the memo, the part where he claims Panera’s food is so good “that many of us will continue to eat there.” I know he was trying to be gracious but trust me, no one from that agency who worked on this account will ever eat there again.