Back in February, shortly after the Super Bowl, CareerBuilder.com unceremoniously dumped their agency of record, Cramer-Krasselt, because the TV spot they produced for the client failed to make it into the Top 10 Super Bowl ads as rated by USA Today. Apparently, the incredible work Cramer had done for CareerBuilder previously, or the results post-Super Bowl, were of no concern. The client didn’t have enough to brag about, so the agency got fired.
According to reports in Ad Age, agency CEO Peter Krivkovich had a few choice things to say to his former client on the way out the door. The direct quote from the leaked memo was, “There are a few times in your life when you have to tell someone to F*** off and mean it.” Okay, then.
Not surprisingly, the buzz that followed questioned how other potential clients would react. Would they want to go into business with a company and a CEO that heated about a client relationship gone bad? Was that really an appropriate response to what happened? Six months later, the answer is a resounding, “Absolutely!”
Last week, Porsche of North America awarded Cramer-Krasselt their creative and media accounts based in large part on their convictions and passion in defending what they do. Porsche completes the trifecta for Cramer who also won the heartburn drug Zantec account and the Bissell vacuum account earlier in the year. Krivkovich estimates agency revenue will be up 15 percent to 22 percent for the year. Not bad. Not bad at all.
All of this begs some important questions. Why, as agencies, do we feel compelled to walk on eggshells? And how are we supposed to respond when clients are unreasonable, unrelenting and often, simply wrong.
Our agency is blessed with great clients. But that doesn’t mean every client we’ve ever had was a blessing. Every agency has to deal with difficult clients. But sometimes, you get clients who want the world for nothing and who quite simply, act unfairly. It’s then when the rubber meets the road for agencies. Like it did for Cramer with CareerBuilder.com, or GSDM and Wal-Mart when after hundreds of millions of dollars of growth, the Arkansas giant put their account in review and Roy Spence respectfully declined to defend it. Sometimes, you just have to walk away.
It’s fascinating to watch the reaction Cramer has gotten from other clients like Porsche. There’s not an agency in the world that wouldn’t love to work on Porsche, and as long as there are great brands like them who appreciate good work, conviction, passion and an agency’s right to stand up and defend itself, the skies are a whole lot brighter for the rest of us.