Former BBDOer turned soldier thanks support from home front

I just read Tom Messner’s article in Adweek’s Sept. 11 edition and wanted to share one last thing about my deployment to Iraq.

I have been fortunate, over the last year, to have the support of my family and friends, but there is a remarkable assembly that has backed me since I left the states—my co-workers.

I could not have survived this deployment without the unyielding support of the people at my agency. They have sent care packages to me and the other soldiers here. This includes Christmas gifts last year for every soldier in my unit. There is a woman in the accounting department whom I have never met, Virginia Crowley, who has written me almost every month to show her support. There are the three freelance illustrators, Kieran, John and Greg, that have sent me everything from socks to sunblock—and a couple of things the U.S. Army has considered contraband since the Civil War. I have received letters from David Lubars encouraging me to stay positive. Even Andrew Robertson has taken time out of his schedule to “check in.” One former co-worker’s mother still writes me even though her daughter Stacey left the agency a few months ago. Last week I received an e-mail from my partner Jimmy reminding me that he prays for me “constantly.”

This encouragement is praiseworthy. Their support has neither been about political affiliations nor ideological beliefs. The focus has been in supporting one of their own. I am humbled by their unwavering devotion to me and the other soldiers here. There are so many that have reached out to me personally and given their support, far too many to list right now. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention how grateful I am to these people I consider to be heroes on the home front. We sometimes forget what makes our country great; over the past year I have been reminded—it’s the people.

BBDOers from the mailroom to the corner offices, I thank you.

1st Lt. R. Vann Graves

U.S. Army

Mosul, Iraq

Agency defensiveness over compensation is self-defeating

The comments of the three agency creative chiefs at the Sept. 13 Association of National Advertisers forum lamenting the new business process and compensation models were thought provoking.

As for the requirement that agencies give away ideas in pitches, I say: “Don’t.” I will defend your right to this position all day long. If enough agencies follow that lead, perhaps idea-based pitches will go away. I hope the agency industry is not holding its collective breath for this to happen.

As for Neil Powell’s “hate” for pitching and his belief that “we shouldn’t have to do it,” who says he has to? My advice is: “Don’t.” Mr. Powell should look for work in an industry in which he won’t have to compete for business.

As for the belief that “rarely are pitches even playing fields” and that “something’s always going on,” I say: “Why would a client spend the time and the money to mount a pitch if it wasn’t for real?” It just doesn’t happen. It’s true that clients often come into pitches with experience and relationships that influence the agencies invited to participate, but the outcome is never a forgone conclusion. I suspect there’s a correlation between the degree to which creative chiefs share these beliefs and their agencies’ failure rates in new business.

Then there was Robert Wong’s comment suggesting agencies spend resources formerly used in pitching on existing business, so clients will be guaranteed “the best thinking and most progressive ideas. … But the reality of the industry doesn’t allow us to do that. So, I think the model’s broken.” What? If he’s saying that a good way to get around the new business model is to refuse to compete and to concentrate on existing clients, who’s stopping him? And didn’t I just read that Mr. Wong’s agency won the Progressive pitch? I’m confused.

David Lubars doesn’t object to pitches, which goes a long way to account for his agency’s outstanding new business track record. But he laments that agencies are paid like an hourly worker instead of being paid for the value of the idea. I understand that point of view and believe his agency has carte blanche to charge for its services and ideas as it sees fit. Again, I will defend this right to the end. Aren’t performance-based compensation models a way of placing proper value on an agency’s contributions?

What bothers me most about some of the comments from these creative chiefs is the defensiveness. Defensiveness is seen by clients as weakness, and as a posture in new business it’s disastrous. What a shame that all this agency defensiveness came through in such a public forum. And what a missed opportunity.

Brian Goodall

General Manager, Jones Lundin Beals

New York