Back before the war, I was working at a small shop with a pretty good crew. A good creative department, strong production support and reasonable management, and we had a good mid-level client list.  But to go to the next level, the owners hired a big time talent from a major market as the new Creative Director. So now we could go after that really big account in Rochester we’ve lusted over. Understand that this new CD was a really really big guy. He may have actually known Ogilvy.

We got a meeting with the Rochester prospect and a chance to do a full-page, 4/C consumer ad in a national pub. For a little shop this was a great opportunity. We had four weeks to prepare before we showed concepts–plenty of time. I started with a comprehensive five page creative brief. Because I was going to be working with a major heavy weight, major market CD, I wanted to be thorough.

I let a week go by to give what’s-his-name plenty of time to absorb my input. At the end of the week, he indicated that the input was good and thorough and he understood what needed to be done. At the end of the second week, I was curious about how concepts were progressing, but didn’t want to disturb the creative flow. But I did ask and was told great ideas were forthcoming. This was going to be break-through stuff.

At the end of the third week I’m nervous. What does the creative look like? What’s the message? What’s the big idea? I need to prepare for my upcoming meeting with the client. But “not to worry” he says. It’s all worked out and just need to prepare the boards.

The day before the meeting I’m flipping out. What the frick is going on? My hair is on fire. “Should have the boards ready to go over by the end of the day”, he says. The only comfort I have is that this new CD is a major talent from a major market who’s worked on major accounts. This must be the way they do it in the big L. A. shops. He’ll come through.

The next morning, an hour before I have to drive to Rochester, the boards are ready. I’m in the conference room and ready to be blown away. I can’t wait. As he goes through the three boards for the one and only concept, I’m confused. He explains that these are concepts and intended to communicate the essence of a campaign. I’m not quite seeing how these translate into magazine ads, but that’s only because I’m just a kid from Kenmore working in a little shop. He’s the master and I’m just not able to keep up.

I pack the boards into my portfolio and off I drive, thinking along the way just exactly how I’m going to present these boards that are just a bit over my head. But the client will love them because there were done by a major talent from a major market.

It was the worst meeting I ever had. The client didn’t think the concepts were over their heads. They just thought they were bad, and they were right. On the long drive home I vowed that I would never go through anything like that again. We didn’t get the work. I went directly to the agency’s owner and discussed what happened. She quickly understood the problem with the creative director and his lame concepts. She had suspected that this emperor may not have been wearing any clothes and was going to call him on the carpet.

“NO”, I said. This was not what’s-his-name’s fault. The fault was mine! I let this jerk intimidate me. I should have demanded to see roughs after ten days. I’ve had the benefit of working with some amazing talents right here in Buffalo. I knew what good work looks like, how the creative process works and how disciplined it can be. But this CD was a major talent from a major market and I felt inadequate in confronting him. Shame on me. Never again.

The account manager’s job is to manage the account and I hadn’t done that. I was more to blame for losing the work than the moron we had for a CD. If the creative output doesn’t respond to the input don’t use it. The account manager is air cover for everyone in the agency. If something goes bad in creative, media, production, wherever, the account manager has to take the blame. That’s the job. Get used to it.