Blind Items: I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

By Patrick Coffee 

It’s hard to be a C-level agency leader … no, really. Do you doubt that the pressures of managing dozens of prima donnas and touchy clients can get to a guy or girl? Today we have a few examples proving that point.

  • We recently reported on some big changes at an industry group that will (of course) remain nameless. The leaders of this group, however, were not too happy with the fact that multiple sources had given us key information about this change ahead of time, so one executive took some extraordinary steps to prevent any future incidents by installing spyware on the computers of all employees. This act of strategery might have gone unseen, but someone accidentally pressed a sequence of keys that revealed the presence of the software on his or her computer. All staff members then did the same, revealing the scope of the surveillance operation. Members of the team were so upset that another top executive had to travel to headquarters to apologize on behalf of the entire organization. And that’s not all: we hear that the person behind the spyware move has a habit of collecting employees’ passwords and reading their emails. Just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you…
  • In another corporate culture development, one agency has had a good bit of success making “the content” in recent years … but its chief executive still wasn’t immune to anonymous flack from employees on Glassdoor who had some issues with internal operations. This leader wanted to show everyone that he/she had a sense of humor about the whole thing, so the agency held an internal meeting to announce the launch of a URL dedicated solely to letting employees share their opinions about him/her anonymously. It sounded like a great idea, but ended up turning into something of a mess as staffers let their sometimes-angry opinions flow a bit too freely. The executive responded by password protecting the site before killing it altogether last month.
  • Another, more traditional organization recently went through a changing of the guard atop its executive ranks. Amid all the “agency parts with” headlines, one might have assumed that its leaders had been fired due to performance or related issues. In fact, we recently learned that these executives did not get canned but quit their jobs for one very specific reason: They didn’t want to work on a huge account that had just come in. As we hear it, the decision stemmed from the fact that this client is notoriously difficult to work with and hostile to creative ideas. It’s also known for being cheap despite being one of the country’s biggest single advertisers.
  • In CEOs Getting PAID news, we hear that a certain venture capital group that you might remember from the last election is suddenly interested in marketing. This group has invested in a wide array of companies including a prominent fast food chain and a series of retailers, but it has recently set its sights on one of the agency world’s newer holding groups with plans to buy a majority share. This could be good news for the group in question, which is tracking below its revenue targets for the year.