Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More Misadventures in Marketing

The story you are about to read is true. Names have been changed to protect the idiotic.

Upstart advertising copywriter Mr. X was in his first client meeting with Southeast Asian cellular communications company, Cell-Koh-Koh, which were poised to launch their new device, the Neato-Cool Office-Fax Type-Messenger (or NCOFTyM or “Nick-of-time” for short) to the public. To really drive home how long ago this was, the NCOFTyM was the first mobile device in this Southeast Asian country that was capable of sending a text message to a landline fax machine, which would then print said message. However, the NCOFTyM was unable to receive messages; that would come later once the e-mail and texting capabilities that were mostly restricted to the military (and some colleges and businesses) would become more mainstream.

At any rate, workers on the go would have the means to print a message at their base office from anywhere within Cell-Koh-Koh’s network, and Cell-Koh-Koh had taken the initiative to book a full-page ad for the NCOFTyM in a major industry trade magazine. Then they finally decided to bring in their advertising agency to develop the ad, which had to be delivered in four days. (!) Assuming we used stock photography and called in a few favors from the color separators (yes, we were using films back then), the ad concept and copy had to be approved by the client by 2 p.m. the following afternoon.

So Mr. X was listening very intently to the two-hour client presentation, twisting his brain in a feeble attempt to squeeze out some compelling messages for a full-page industry trade ad that would convince companies with a mobile workforce to invest in this not-really-inexpensive device for communicating with the base office instead of simply continuing to rely on not-really-expensive mobile phone calls.

Stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on his way back to the agency, an idea suddenly came to Mr. X, who proceeded to write and rewrite in his notepad during every stop in his stop-and-go journey back to the office. Upon his arrival back at his desk, he quickly typed up a final draft of his initial proposed ad copy, gained immediate creative director approval and a photo suggestion, and faxed it all to his contact at Cell-Koh-Koh.

The contact called Mr. X immediately, and while he was impressed with the photo, he wasn’t happy with the copy, which seemed to be missing a lot of messaging about the techno-whatzit whizbangs that explained how the NCOFTyM can do its thing. For the next 30 minutes Mr. X listened and took notes, and was told to expect a twenty-eight-page fax of the device’s technical specifications for further reference. It was now past 7 p.m., and tomorrow's 2 p.m. deadline doom seemed to be approaching faster than the speed of time.

Fighting his rapidly deflating ego, Mr. X struggled to decipher the technical specs that he read (and reread) that evening, and struggled further the following morning trying to translate that information as well as pack all of the client requests into a concise 400-word ad -- which still had to fit with the approved photo. Fifty-five minutes before deadline, Mr. X showed a 407-word, somewhat clunky draft to the creative director -- who understood that there are times when creative people have to assume the role of an order-taker.  He gave the copy an OK to fax for client review.

Twenty minutes later, the phone rang. Mr. X took the call from his now-irate Cell-Koh-Koh contact, who said that the ad copy was completely off-base. After a seventeen-minute discussion regarding what the client was really looking for, something clicked in X’s head.

“Just a moment, I’ve been rewriting as we have been talking,” X lied over the phone. “Let me send you a new draft.” X immediately took his initial ad copy from the previous evening and refaxed it to the client while he waited on the line.

Three minutes later, and one minute before deadline, the client was elated. “This is perfect! I was having my doubts, but I can see that you really get this. Please proceed.”

So this was a case where the third time was definitely the charm, even though it involved trusting one’s first instinct the second time around.

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