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Bragging at the Big Love Party

Valentine’s Day found me at a Big Love Party in Marin County, California. Nothing kinky—my friends just wanted to gather all the people they love in their new home and serve us pink drinks in martini glasses. It was a warm, vibrant atmosphere, with ceviche and chocolates, hoots of laughter from the hosts, and their new pet, an overweight bunny, adding to the love.     

The first person I met was a creative director for one of the largest worldwide advertising agencies. As an art director myself, I knew all the questions to ask for a lively conversation. Over the noise of the crowd gaining in density and energy, he told me of the late nights, exasperating egos, and unsatisfied clients. He spoke of clients who reject brilliant ideas merely because they are having a bad day. I had worked in this world in Manhattan years ago, so I identified. But I also gloated.   

Ignoring the little voice in my head not to go there, I described to my new acquaintance the successful ad campaign I had nailed yesterday for a big time company. “Funny,” I said, “There’s just me, a copy writer, and one account executive: a little virtual agency. We had only one week to come up with ideas on how to advertise the improved product. We presented Friday morning, via a conference call, while the client enthusiastically looked at a pdf of concepts. By noon, a concept was chosen and all of a sudden we were ready for production!”    

Nowhere in a large agency are things this simple. People there get crazed prior to presenting. They exhaust themselves so much that creativity hardly has a chance to enter in and preen its feathers. And big agencies never rely on just three individuals to pull off a presentation; there are all sorts of peripheral employees complicating the picture. But leave the job to a few highly intelligent, independent, experienced creatives, I am thinking, and we’ll get it done.    

The little voice got louder: “Pride goeth before a fall.” I know the proverb well. When I said my prayers that night, I was quick to confess. You see, it wasn’t solely the cleverness of my team that won us the account and such quick approval and praise from the client; it was a minor miracle where all sorts of pieces came together perfectly. Or maybe it was merely our client having a good day.   

Confession aside, I still had a lesson to learn. Monday morning, well after the pink drinks and their after effects wore off, I received my first email of the day from my account executive: “Hold off! The client is no longer sure what concept he likes.”   

“No problem,” I thought, “All our ideas are good and would be fairly easy to produce.” But then came a second email: “No go. Sorry. He’s decided he doesn’t like anything. We have to start over.”    

I am humbled. I also have a hunch that no one invited my client to a Big Love Party that weekend, and no one served him a pink drink.