Account handlers build bridges not steamrollers

I came across this brilliant account man legend the other day about the great Frank Lowe. But recast it in today’s agency model & you’d probably be out on your ear.

Here’s the story:

Gordon Smith used to work in the studio at CDP. One day the studio head gave him a piece of artwork for a finished ad & asked him to repair it.

It had been ripped in half.

‘What happened to it?’ Gordon asked. The studio head said, ‘Frank just sold it.’

Apparently what had happened was that Frank Lowe, then a young account man, had presented the finished ad to a junior client. The junior client made the most of the opportunity.

He stroked his chin, narrowed his eyes & said ‘I don’t think it’s quite there yet.’

Frank said, ‘This is the ad I agreed with your board to do, and we already have the space booked’.

The client said, ‘Yes, but I’d like to see a couple of changes.’

Frank turned the artwork over, ripped it in half & threw it in the corner.

The client screamed, ‘What are you doing?’

Frank said, ‘Well you said you didn’t want to run that ad. Perhaps you can tell me what you do want to do?’

The client said, ‘I didn’t mean that’.

Frank said, ‘Of course, starting all over again means we’ll miss the copy date that’s already paid for’.

The client said, ‘Hang on, you’ve misunderstood what I meant’.

Frank said, ‘And the board will want to know why you’re not running the ad they asked me to’.

The client began picking up the 2 halves of the ad. ‘Look isn’t there some way we can salvage this ad & still make the copy date?’ he said. ‘I thought you didn’t like it’ said Frank.

‘No, no – I want to run it exactly as it is. Can you help me please?’ said the client.

‘I’ll see what I can do’ said Frank.

Which is why Gordon had to put the ad back together again because Frank had just sold it.

Now that’s an account man. But maybe one from 1955. It’s a great story about leverage & but this type of steamrolling doesn’t really work in today’s collaborative model.

A more fitting golden rule is that when we want to persuade (rather than sell) we need to think about the wants & needs of all the people we interact with. Hourly. Daily. Monthly. Yearly.


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