Agency Tenacity

This is an ad some friends of mine made at Y&R Chicago:

Here’s the story of the ad as I remember it:
  • The team working on Craftsman came up with this idea independent of a brief.
  • It was presented to the client who loved it. But they had too many looming deadlines and too many fires to put out for this to be a priority, no matter how cool. It was "put on the backburner" (i.e., ignored).
  • In the meantime, the team created two other posters (muscles and major organs).
  • The agency continued to remind the client that they should run this poster, to which the client kept saying, “Yes, yes. We love it. We’ll get around to it.”
  • Finally, the creative directors said, “The client liking the work isn't enough. We've got to make it irresistible.”
  • The agency printed these as huge posters (something like 3' x 8') and with October a couple months away, the brand manager suggested repositioning them as a Halloween promotion.
  • They were presented to the clients again. This time, they bought them. In fact, they liked them so much, they approved production of a TV spot and hundreds of skeleton/tool t-shirts that were so popular the client charged their own employees for them and they still sold out. (In my opinion, the TV and t-shirts aren't as cool as the original print. But they were still great opportunities, and the agency got paid to produce them.)

What was the difference? It might have been timing. It might have been the moods of the client. But there are three things the agency did right that they didn’t have to do:
  1. They were tenacious. They recognized great work and pursued it. Not every agency and not every creative director will do this. You need to gravitate towards the ones that do.
  2. They invested in making the next presentation irresistible. They printed these out as huge posters, not unmounted 11x17s, or even mounted poster-sized posters. They showed the client exactly what they would look like, and didn’t leave it up to their imaginations.
  3. They made it relevant to the client. These weren’t concepted as Halloween posters. In fact, that almost makes it cheesy. But it was enough to get the work produced. And that’s what matters.
There's an alternate ending to this story:
  • The Craftsman team came up with this idea.
  • The client loved it, but sat on it since it wasn't a priority.
  • It never got produced and exists only as spec work in the AD's and CW's book.
As Sally Hogshead says, "Brilliant ideas are fragile. They won’t get produced unless everyone in the agency is dedicated to helping them through."

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New addition: In early 2010, Sears began offering tool chests and storage lockers with the Craftsman image. So put down product design on the list of media affected by this off-the-brief and never-asked-for idea.

Credits for the original print campaign:
CW: Tohru Oyasu, AD: Rainer Schmidt, CDs: Dave Loew and Jon Wyville, ECD: Mark Figliulo