Sad But True: How One Ad Agency Completely Blew Their New Business Credentials Presentation

Making brownies while presenting your credentials doesn't mix
by Todd Knutson

One day during the week of June 15th, 2009 a multicultural ad agency that can't be named had a conference call with a very large, well-known telecommunications company. They completely blew it.

Here's what they knew going into the call, which was set up a week earlier:

  • The brief: present ideas on how to further segment the African American, Asian, and Hispanic markets.
  • Expected content: a credentials presentation that addresses the agency's experience, shows case studies, and answers the brief.
  • Participants: senior marketer, agency president, new business director.

During the week before the scheduled call, the new business director tried to engage her president to help prepare a deck. But she was unsuccessful, despite the fact that this was a big opportunity for them, they needed a new business win, and they had the background necessary to do so. The president felt they knew the material and should just have a conversation with the marketer.

At the appointed time, the new business director initiated the call. The marketer was in his office, and the president was on a speaker phone in the agency's kitchen. As the call got started, the president began to make brownies. Seriously.

Needless to say, the call went downhill from there. It was difficult to hear due to the racket in the kitchen, nothing was prepared in advance as requested, and the president was paying half-attention while reading the cookbook and mixing ingredients in the background.

Is it any wonder that the call went nowhere?

Lessons learned - if you're the new business director in an agency like this:

  1. Prepare on your  own in advance
  2. Keep your president off the call, off a speaker phone, and out of the kitchen
  3. Or, alternatively, find a new job

If you're an agency president who acts like this: either stay completely out of the new business process, or hire someone to take your job (perhaps make yourself the honorary chairperson).

Quirky may be funny once a client gets to know you, but few senior marketers are going to find it amusing on the first call.

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