"What is critical is not what P&G and Wieden have in common, but what we absolutely do not have in common. "It is our differences that will push both sides to develop a better model suited for the times ahead."
Yikes. I was some years ago visiting the Chiat Day agency in Venice Beach, California, the one, as above, designed by Frank Gehry, that had the binoculars outside. I was there with my client, a very talented guy who worked for the Coca-Cola Company (TCCC), and we had come bearing what we thought was a good idea for TCCC and the hope that Chiat Day would help us develop it.
Talk about naïve! No, Chiat Day was not interested in our idea. What they were interested in was having us bow before the genius that was Chiat Day. We were ushered into a small room where very attractive people made a point of telling us how lucky we were to be there.
The chief rhetorical device was a sense of rapt anticipation…as in, “I’m so excited that you’re so lucky. This is going to be great! You are going to meet Mr. Morrison*! Wow, what a extraordinary day this is for you!”
When we did not warm to this, they got all explicit on our ass.
“You know who you’re going to meet, don’t you?”
Generally, I do what I’m told. But my client from TCCC is a certified talent, I mean a real “don’t mess with him” talent. I once saw him beard an entire room of his colleagues at TCCC. As we were taking our seats, he said, “this is what we should do.” And we said, “well, why not let the adults think this one through?” And about an hour later, after we had exerted ourselves heroically, there was a little sign hanging over the proceedings. “The kid’s right. We’re done here.” We gathered what remained of our self love, and left.
But my client was on his best behavior and we suffered this patronizing treatment without protest. We did our best to look on admiring as Mr. Morrison treated us to the full measure of his genius. Ever so modestly, we wondered if Morrison and his brilliant team might consider the idea we had brought with us. Hah! We clearly did not understand.
We were the milk fed client, the great shaggy, four legged beast. We didn’t have ideas. And this is why we were so fabulously fortunate to find ourselves in the presence of Robert Morrison, idea incarnate, routine producer of the BFI (big fucking idea), captain of consumer preference, the very fount of brand value, the man without whom capitalism would indeed merely and always the captive of the dismal science. If there was color in the world, if there was joy in any heart, if there was thought in any head, it was because Mr. Robert Morrison had put it there. Surely, we could see this. I mean, it was the single most shameless act of patronizing I have ever seen. Count your blessings. Come to Jesus. And shut up with the ideas, already.
Sorry, got carried away there a little. (I think I still always think of Friday as “story day.” As a kid, my local library would read stories on Fridays, and I haven’t got over it, apparently.) The point I wish to make is that the remark from Wieden marks how much things have changed. Agencies are, some of them, the best ones, at least, no longer God’s gift. They are now there to listen and, actually, there to learn. Wieden takes this a step further. The agency is there to change as the client does. Indeed, client and agency will transform as they interact with one another. (They are becoming in the language of complexity theory, complex adapative systems!)
I am fast running out of time here, but let me propose that we think of this in terms of a four part table. (When I have the time, I will try to produce this graphically.)
In the upper left cell, we have client and agency both as gods. The game here is for the agency to persuade the client that they, the agency, have just had a BFI (as invented by the likes of Mr. Morrison) and that they (the client) must now pay the agency a huge amount of money. Mark this cell: Agency god, Client god.
In the lower left cell, we have the agency as god and the client has supplicant. This was the model operating with the Chiat Day case described above. In this case, the agency doesn’t even pretend to solicit ideas from the client.
In the upper right cell, we have client as god, agency as supplicant. In a competitive marketplace, this is what you would think all relationships look like, and perhaps today many of them do. Frankly, I think it’s the account manager who does the supplication, and often the creative team remains committed to the “do you have any idea how lucky you are to be working with us” model.
In the lower right cell, we are looking at “client not a god, agency not a god,” and this appears to be where Wieden has located his agency’s relationship with P&G. And this is really interesting. Now we are looking at a relationship in which both organization are moving at the speed of light, both are undergoing a continual transformation, and the relationship between them will amount to a daring in space docking which may or may not both organizations forever transformed.
So do we learn to live with dynamism. (Thanks for coming to “story time on Fridays.”)
* not his real name.
The full story from Adweek.
With thanks to Dilys for the image.