I'D BEEN HAVING A CRAZYWELL, CAREER, and so I decided to invite The Old Ad Guy to lunch. I wanted to hear stories of the days when advertising was a wide open town, when you didnt even start a project until youd knocked back half a dozen martinis at Riccardos, and it was normal on production to be given three weeks, a suite at the Beverly Wilshire and Orson Welles as your announcerfor radio.
We sat down and his first cocktail appeared without him even having to tell the waiter what he wanted. He asked me if I was doing anything good.
Oh, yeah, I guess, I said. I just presented something kinda cool this morning to Pacific ComNetTelSys, and
What time did you get back from the airport? he asked, puzzled.
Yeah right, I said. Like anybody travels to present anything any more.
He stared at me in horror. My God, you dont mean you presented over thatthat box! he exclaimed. Do you realize the peril your workhell, your whole account is in?
I rolled my eyes. Well, they dont fly me around first class like they did you.
The ultimate source of everything that is wrong with advertising today, he intoned, is the speakerphone. He took a sip to let the gravity of his point sink in.
I thought you said it was art directors designing on computers instead of bar napkins
Dont argue with everything, he snapped. Heres the problem. Assume your client is intelligent. But a hair slower at evaluating creative than professionals like ourselves. So what happens when he takes your work out of the FedEx package and looks at it for the first time?
Im not there. How do I know what she does?
Hes quiet, he said, taking another sip. For a second and a half. And in that second and a half you get nervous. So you start explaining every detail of your brilliant concept and the amazing creative process by which you arrived at it. Meanwhile your client, who really isnt stupid, has by now gotten it and made up his own mind. But because youre communicating with a plastic box instead of another human being, you dont know that. So you keep talking, and talking, and after a while he starts taking work out of his briefcase to pass the time. And by the time youre done blathering, hes so irritated that he kills your work out of sheer annoyance.
Hmm, I said, thinking about times Id done exactly what hed described. I know you always say I need to do less talking and more listening
A lesson I see youre still in the process of learning, the Old Ad Guy said, as he held up his empty glass and the waiter nodded, in a perfect demonstration of understanding between customer and supplier without so much as a word spoken.