Clients were precious. Mergers were murder.

As we have seen in the previous contribution to these ramblings, windows were important. They were as much a status symbol as just a room with a view.  Mergers failed because of a lack of windows. Very simply, two principals or two managing directors would not fit into just one office with a window. If it became necessary to move an incumbent Suit then the incoming equivalent Suit must be equally housed. Oddly, Creatives other than Artists were not so fussed about windows. Except, as we have seen, when the move to Open Plan and the first choice of position provided the opportunity

Mergers were hell. Later in my career I was to experience the spiral of one of the two agencies in Brisbane that bore my name being merged into oblivion. It didn’t help that I was shafted en route by two people I had known as friends for over twenty years. You know who you were. I hope you went on to a lifetime of 3 foot partitions far from the nearest window. I have survived.

In the earliest merger I was involved in, back in early Sydney days, we did wind up with two managing directors. Each was the founder of their own shop. That was fun. The new team, however, did bring its own source of amusement. Their principal was Mr Magoo myopic. The unfortunate man really was, in today’s politically correct vernacular, seriously visually impaired. This, in turn, had some equally unfortunate results, one of which might well have proved fatal.

Our Art Director was a truly talented fine artist. I should never have invited him in to the world of advertising agencies. I’ll tell you his name in tribute and I hope he won’t mind, wherever he may be today. He was, and I hope still is, John Saxton. He had a window.

Mr Magoo was fond of entering John’s office, coming up behind him and looking over his shoulder at his work. His eyesight problem demanded that he place his head very close to John’s unsuspecting ear as he commented on what he saw before him. It was not this proximity so much that concerned our worthy Art Director; it was the fact that our new co-leader tended towards spittle when excited.

More out of a desire to protect his artwork than anything else we moved John’s desk to the side, away from the window. Enter Mr Magoo, heading straight for where the desk used to be. John caught sight of him just in time to halt his progress, before he fell out through the third story window.

Poor man, and such a very nice man, one day he almost lost us a client. It happened on the golf course. Before hitting off he was loosening up, as one does, testing his swing by hitting at objects on the ground. Swoosh … and one hell of a yelp from Valued Client. Mr Magoo had mistaken some white object on the ground for a passing piece of paper and had hit it very well and very hard. However, it was in fact the toe of a very new white golf shoe, on the foot of the now somewhat injured client.

The Client forgave us, which was a relief in a business haunted daily by the fear of losing a Client.

My earliest experience of losing a Client was gained at my first-ever advertising agency. It happened this way. With the principal and thus my boss, Peter Ryan, I was in the car on the way to make a presentation to a Client. This Client happened to be Sydney’s leading dry cleaning firm. We believed, of course, that this leadership was a direct result of our continuously convincing creative campaigns. The Client was less convinced, to the extent that he had twice sent us back to revise our previous submission. He was being difficult, as Clients can be.

Determined to be positive and perhaps seeking a memorable phrase because I had been hired as a Suit and had so far stayed that way, in spite of writing several successful campaigns already without being dubbed a Copywriter, I said:

“Peter. We have an excellent campaign. We must stick to our guns. We should be prepared to carry our integrity into the street.”

I must have impressed the boss with at least a part of that little oration, because at a point where the Client had again begun to dither over wholehearted acceptance of our offering, I heard Peter say to the Client:

“We are prepared, sir, to carry our integrity into the street.”

And, you guessed it, we found ourselves out in the street with integrity intact but sans Client. Fired on the spot, which was I suppose an appropriate area for a dry cleaner. We didn’t learn until the end of the day, when we finally returned from licking our wounds at Peter’s club, that we had been reinstated by phone only moments after our departure. They even approved our campaign.

It goes without saying that Clients were our life blood, particularly those blessed with a sizable budget. The fear of losing one is real. To fight this fear when I went freelance as Communicator One I adopted an old standard as my corporate song. It went: “Got along without you before I met you; gonna get along without you now”.

I don’t think I ever really convinced myself of that. I have just noticed that, even in blissful writing retirement, I have everywhere written Client with a capital.

Back on the subject of mergers for a moment, I recall that they often created another problem. Again this arose when neither side was prepared to stand down. Take for example the result when a Sydney agency merged with a Melbourne agency but neither was about to give an inch where their name was concerned. It was said that as a result the receptionist for the newly merged agency, a lovely woman, answered the phone on day one:

“Good morning. Briggs – Canny – James – and – Paramor – Foote – Cone – and – Belding. Good afternoon.”
























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