‘We’ve been sacked.’
‘What do you mean, we’ve been sacked?’
‘Look, all I know is that Household Name has given us the push. With
immediate effect. Apparently, things have been rocky for a while, but we
thought that we’d cracked it. I guess not.’
‘I wonder what will happen now?’
Obviously, neither of the above were in the hot seat - board director or
account director on a big piece of business which has not-so-suddenly
gone walkies. Because if they had been, they would have known that the
witch-hunting season was about to open. Bang - you’re dead.
It goes like this...
You inherit an important piece of business. It might involve stonking
consultancy fees tacked on to the usual services, a staggering TV
budget, be so prestigious that other agency chiefs are eating their
hearts out - or the agency founder’s first client.
You’ve got a nightmare on your hands and you spend 70-plus hours a week
trying to sort it out. You’re obsessed with it day and night and tinker
at weekends. ‘Yes, do call me at home, of course I’m always happy to
discuss things with you.’ You can’t raise the issue internally because
no-one will admit that anything is less than perfect with this stinker.
After years of forelock-tugging from fearful agency staff the client
won’t consider the possibility of problems and so you, dear one, plug
away, heartsick at recognising the inevitable pattern.
Of course, it happens. Years of fear, leading to a lack of honest
communication and focus, guarantees lack of delivery, which reinforces
bad communication and ensures worse agency work. Rumbles, ructions,
shirty faxes and then the bullet - often by post or a third party, since
the client hasn’t got the balls or courtesy to do it in person.
The agency has had the account for five, eight, ten years. It has always
been rocky, always a miracle that it hasn’t walked. Its demise has been
anticipated many times and, as the sharp-eyed know, it was inevitable.
Is it the responsibility of the agency? Of course not. Why involve an
ego-driven company in something as nasty as failure? Stake out the
person in the hot seat: the eager sod who walked into deep shit and
became mired there. Lend him a hand? Don’t be stupid. A colleague bent
over in need creates an easy rung on the ladder. Somebody has to take
It’s much simpler to shoot him - bang, bang, you’re dead.
If you’ve got something to rant about, send your 400 words - no more,
no less - to Stefano Hatfield, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP.