Ogilvy PR just fired the California High-Speed Rail Authority. In so doing, the firm walked away from a four-and-a-half year, $9mm contract.
This is big news for two reasons:
A) Ogilvy PR walked away from a huge budget. Regardless of the rumors being circulated, it takes serious guts to walk away from something that big without first putting up a fight.
B) The Daily Dog reported the news. PR trades cover 'reverse firings' less often than Fox runs positive pieces about the Obama Administration.
So, three cheers for Ogilvy PR and The Daily Dog.
Agencies seldom find about impending terminations in advance. But it does happen. I'll never forget the time it happened to me.
We were representing a tech company at the height of the dotcom craze. As was usually the case at the time, the client paid us a serious monthly retainer, expected 24×7 access to our team, routinely mistreated them and began complaining about poor results about three days into the relationship.
Since that sort of client behavior was de rigueur in those crazy, hazy days, I didn't think much of it. We were growing at a 100 percent clip annually, so we just assumed such behavior came with the turf.
That was, until, I interviewed a prospective employee. At that point, talent was so scarce most agencies were hiring pretty much anyone who could walk and chew gum at the same time. This particular guy could. So, as I was wrapping up the interview, I told him he'd be working on the brand new, high maintenance, dotcom account. “Oh, I know them well. We just pitched them,” he said in response.
I smiled. “Yeah,” I said, “They told us we'd beaten four or five very good firms.” He shook his head. “No. I mean we JUST pitched them earlier this week.”
After my anger had subsided and I verified the facts, I called the client. As was her wont, she began the call with a complaint, “Oh, hi, Steve. You know, you guys never sent yesterday's end-of-day report. That's unacceptable.” I cut her off at the pass. “Diane,” I asked, “Are you interviewing other agencies?” Dead silence.
She finally coughed and said, “Ah, yes.” She tried to continue, but I cut her off again. “Then, this relationship is over. You're fired. I'll e-mail the termination notice this afternoon.”
Man, that felt good. And, I hope the fine folks at Ogilvy PR are feeling good right now despite the loss in fees. I respect agencies that walk away from badly behaving clients. And, employees respect managers with the chutzpah to do the right thing. Now, all we need is the trade press to provide some crack investigative reporting like The Daily Dog just did.