Friday, January 13, 2012

Conventional wisdom in Oakland.

           When I first moved to the Bay Area and set up our ad agency, the first account I was invited to pitch was the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau. We got in because of our experience with the Detroit bureau, winning awards and getting incredible results.

           On the day of the presentation, I put on my suit and tie, tucked my slides under my arm, and headed for the Marriott Hotel suite where I was to be the second to present.

           I explained who we were, made a joke about us being located in the Claremont Hotel because we got room service, and showed our ads and commercials. I told how we had the experience they needed, and expressed our philosophy that the world isn't about advertising, it's about people.

           I finished by discussing the strategy that would get more conventions and visitors to Oakland. The applause was hearty.

           Then the president of the Bureau thanked me for coming, but that the account would have to go to an ad agency in Oakland. I explained that we were in Oakland, in the Claremont Hotel which is one of their largest members.

           The president responded: "We don't want a transient agency, we want a permanent one." I got to my feet and answered, "Transient? Do you think we're in a hotel room, sitting on the king-size bed writing ads? We're in offices? Want to see our lease?!"

           One of the more astute members of the Bureau's board asked me to join him outside. In the hall, he said, "Your presentation was thorough and good, but very East Coast. Here in California it's different. First, you talk a little wheat bread. Then a little business. Then a little wheat bread. Then a little business. Slow and easy." I thanked him for the hint.

           I went back to the office and explained to our group what happened. Two weeks later we won another account,  the job of doing all the television commercials for Charles Schwab. But I still wanted the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau as a client, because I knew we had the right strategy.

          Two years later, their account went out for bids again. I added a little wheat bread to our pitch and we got the account. The ads we did got the results I knew they would.

          Advertising is still a matter of too many personal opinions.You just have to keep on doing what you know is right. That is true in life.

          I still love Oakland, and I'm glad I told them what I had told the Detroit bureau: every city is great if you crop it right.



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