When it comes to hard-hitting, investigative reporting, the ad trades have no peer

May 26
love reading Advertising Age and Adweek. They not only tell me the latest,
greatest thinking in the 'other' marketing disciplines, but they aren't afraid
take off the gloves and slam inappropriate behavior by client and agency alike.

current Ad Age provides a great example. In a front page article, Ad Age goes
behind the scenes to report on Chevy's reprehensible treatment of their
erstwhile agency of record Publicis. Readers learn about incoming CMO Joel
Ewanick's refusal to meet or even speak with the account managers from
Publicis. He didn't even return their repeated e-mails and voice mails.
Instead, he shifted the entire Chevy brand's $600 million account to his good
friend, Jeff Goodby of Goodby, Silverstein. That's the sort of atrocious
client-side behavior that deserves to be outed.

Chevy saga is one of many examples of the ad trades not being afraid to tackle
misbehaving clients. Earlier this year, Ad Age warned its agency readers of
'serial' clients such as 1-800-FLOWERS, Quiznos and BMW who chew up and spit
out agencies every few months.

PR trades are just the opposite. They'll whack agencies for underperforming or
not delivering on anticipated results but seldom, if ever, go after poor client
behavior. As an example, PR Week once gave us a 'thumbs down' because the
editor at the time said I hadn't been as vocal an advocate for independent
agencies as the publication's editorial staff had expected. So, they publicly
slammed my agency for an apparent personal shortcoming.

Holmes Report, Bulldog and others are quick to jump on agency account wins and
losses (and love to send an e-mail to the effect, 'Hey, we just heard ABC
Widgets is putting your account up for review. Any comment?'). But, their
heart-warming profiles of CMOs, VPs of corporate communications and PR
directors read like 'The Lives of the Saints.'

high time PR industry trades began publishing in-depth, investigative pieces
like the Ad Age/Chevy piece. I'm not sure why there's such a reluctance to do
so, but it results in readers only getting half of what's really happening. So,
note to Steve, Paul and others: provide a real service to your agency readers
and let us know about the Joel Ewanek's and the 1-800-FLOWERS of PR. Trust me,
there are enough horror stories to fill multiple editions. 

10 thoughts on “When it comes to hard-hitting, investigative reporting, the ad trades have no peer

  1. I’m all over it, Peter. Tomorrow’s blog will be on this exact subject. Thanks for forwarding.

  2. I forgot about “The Shermanator” — until now. I see that your revenge is to give me nightmares. Didn’t Jeb end up firing himself once there wasn’t anyone else left?

  3. Peter. Peter. Peter. Jeb Brown would have had Larry Sherman fire you for such inappropriate social media behavior.

  4. Ah shoot, I hit a nerve and I’m sorry. As you know too well from the stand-up world, some humor doesn’t go over well. I hereby retire Politenessman and the attendant sarcasm.
    Maybe I’m a good illustration of how we’re too accepting of bad client behavior. This past week we (gratefully) ended a business relationship where the customer was particularly egregious. Putting the lost revenue aside, it’s not much consolation to know that my worst suspicion — we’d get shafted — turned out to be right.
    I still say that Ewanick made the right decision, but he handled it badly. Perhaps the fallout of bad PR will humble him and result in some contrition to Publicis. If not, there’s always karma, and GM CMOs tend to have short lives.

  5. I’m surprised by your response, Peter. Maybe you’ve avoided horrific business behavior in your career to date. If so, good for you. I, on the other hand, haven’t. And, I think agency bashing should be called out and the misbehaving client admonished for his lack of respect. Life’s too short to put up with that sort of stuff.

  6. The blog was all about bad manners, Peter, not whether the advertising was effective or not. I leave it others to decide that. That said, a serious and seemingly permanent by-product of the society in which we live is an increasing lack of decent and ethical behavior. There’s no excuse for the way Ewanick treated Publicis. None.

  7. By not mentioning a few things, you’re being unfair to GM’s Ewanick.
    First, Publicis was only on the job as Chevy’s AOR for a few months. His predecessors had to pull the plug on a 91-year relationship with Campbell-Ewald just a few months ago. Second, did you see Publicis’ work, “Excellence for Everyone?” It was mediocre at best, reflecting the group-think mentality that has made GM marketing so awful for the last 30-plus years (aside from the product).
    Should Ewanick have met with Publicis? Yes, it would be the decent thing to do. But complaining about his bad manners doesn’t make him wrong for canning them. Which way do you want it?