Wednesday, June 24, 2009

when marketing goes to the dogs

We definitely weren't looking forward to that first meeting. And when 2pm came around, we almost wished we could skip it altogether and work on our other, more interesting and corporatey clients.

"The heating and air conditioning company wants a new website," the owner of the small marketing firm where I worked said. "Should be simple--not a client we necessarily want above others, but, well, they are a client."

So, because we are good employees, although still bratty creatives who bemoan our assignments, the Art Director and I begrudgingly retreated out to the car and began the 30 minute drive into Lexington. When we got there, much was what I expected. The good-ole-boy demeanor of the CEO, the bland building, and the smell of hard work on the workers' uniforms.

All was what I expected. Except for one thing, and I couldn't ignore it.

The biggest Great Dane I had ever seen was also attending our meeting.

"This is Cody," Good Ole Boy said, slapping his back with such force that I was sure it would have injured a human being. Not Cody. He slowly turned toward his master with a look of boredom.

"Cody goes everywhere with me--he's always here."

"In the office?" I asked.

"Yup." Good Ole Boy smiled at me.

Shaking off the strangeness of it, we began the meeting with our usual questions about budget, brand, and expectations. I took notes, all the while praying that the pacing Cody would not interrupt it with his canine ways, such as sniffing others' nether regions or slobbering over our notes. Our meeting came to and end, and we shook hands, patted Cody's head, and began our drive back home.

Good Ole Boy's good-ole-ways had charmed us, though, and a conversation about a clever, professional heating and air-conditioning was sparked between Art Director and I. We thought of a retro motif, or even a superhero feel. Our minds were churning, and after a few moments I said,

"What about the dog?"

Art Director turned to me with the same wild look in his eye. He knew exactly what I was thinking. The last 20 minutes of the drive was spent enthusiastically planning an entire brand campaign centered around Cody. Our entrance into the doors of the firm, laughing and writing lists, was much different that when we left. Owner looked at us with an eyebrow raised, but when he heard our ideas, the least desired client on our list started working its way to the top.

Upon returning to the heating and air-conditioning company, Good Ole Boy greeted us politely, but seemed a little taken aback. Owner accompanied us this time, and we were all looking a little sharper than usual. Owner pulled out his laptop, while I pulled out my visuals as if they were ammunition. The next hour was spent persuading Good Ole Boy that he must--he absolutely MUST!--spend a quarter of a million dollars on our rebrand.

Charts were piled in front of him, along with pictures of stuffed Great Danes, dog treats with the company's logo for his workers to leave behind while out on a job, quotes for repainted trucks with Cody's likeness painted alongside the driver. Good Ole Boy looked overwhelmed, and Cody panted beside him, because, really, it must have made him tired even thinking about it, too. We proposed a photoshoot with Cody for the very next week, and told Good Ole Boy we were working on getting a cartoonist to draw his likeness for possible commercials as well.

Poor Good Ole Boy. He was somewhat excited about our creative endeavors, but was hesitant to spend the money or the time into our brand campaign. We launched a new website with a cartoon Cody sprawled next to the header a month later. After that, we worked with him for other aspects, but Good Ole Boy's commitment was waning.

Finally, Owner admitted what we had feared but suspected.

"I don't think (Good Ole Boy) wants to do this."

He was right, and we knew it. The heating and air-conditioning company was, no doubt, flattered by our creative efforts, but could not move past the bottom line. Good marketing can never work without the boost of the client. It's a running-in-pace metaphor--it sure looks and feels like you're going somewhere, but really, you're not.

It's been five years since I was a project manager at the firm, and a little while ago, I went to the heating and air-conditioning's website. It was, as I suspected. A heating and air-conditioning website. No Cody. And sadly, I heard from someone something that we had not accounted for in our brand campaign.

Cody had died.

A death of a pet is always sad, but I couldn't help but feel a giggle rise in my chest at the irony of it all. I couldn't believe we had missed the "what if" of this. What if we had received a check for the total amount of the campaign? What if we had shot the television commercial? Aired the radio commercials? Handed out the stuffed dogs? Put the Cody de-cals on the trucks?

And then.....he ended up dying!?

Good Ole Boy was undoubtedly heartbroken, but maybe another Great Dane is loafing next to him in the office. I hope so. We've all learned a lesson or two here. Good Ole Boy has learned to be leery of creatives. Art Director has learned to not spend so much time rendering a cartoon version of a dog. Owner has learned to mediate his employees who will easily waste hundreds of billable hours in brainstorming meetings.

And I have learned, that you must--you absolutely MUST!--consider that dogs die.


Liz Brooks said...

This is a great story:) thank you for sharing!

Kelly said...

lol - I love your concluding line! What a story! What a fun job!!!

Megan said...

Awesome story!

I guess, though, you could say that anyone or anything in the campaign could die - you could have used Good Ole Boy's likeness, and he could have died three weeks later. There was a small furniture store in my area that had the married owners in the spots. They divorced at one point, so they had to re-do all of these commercials

Alison said...

Megan, you are so right on the fact that anything could have happened. lol! And that poor couple with having to spend more money on the commercials....

Kristen, The Pajama Mama said...

what a cool blog! i can totally relate to shy blog girl!

Blake said...

Makes me recall a Tex-Mex place I dined at in Sitka, Alaska many years ago called Tres Amigos.

It later become Dos Amigos.

Then El Amigo.

I have no idea if it's still open.