My biggest failure in selling a marketing campaign | Jay Chaney | #FuckupNights Toronto

on vacation our client shopped the idea
to his family at a family gathering grandma did not understand the idea she
thought it was disgusting the client enacted Craig’s actions of peeing on the
hydrants all right let’s do this let’s talk about my fuck up it’s funny I I
laughed when I got asked to do this because there’s so many and it actually
took me quite a while to do what I want to talk about so I kind of actually
circled back to Miami Ad school about six months ago somebody asked me what my
biggest failure was and what do I consider a failure and so I said well
it’s a tough question I mean I have a lot of them but the one I always
consider a failure is when I’m failed to sell an idea and last week was can
creativity festival and that notion was actually kind of
rubbed in my face in a very big way with this campaign which was a Broadway play
for skittles we had an idea similar a year before for very big canadian
brandon won’t tell you which one and we couldn’t sell it we got it to the finish
line and it died right the finish line this one 14 Lions so I joked with Peter
as a friend of mine and said we won negative 14 lions because we didn’t sell
it so it doesn’t matter but my fuck up is actually around that notion it’s an
idea that I didn’t sell and I would say the idea didn’t sell mostly because of
me I’d say actually 95 percent because of me they were 5 percent o break blame
on Craig Macintosh if anybody knows and if you know him you’ll know why so I’ve
had the luxury when I was working that cassette with working some of the top
creative talents right Peter Carlos James and Craig crazy people
insane people but incredible talents and amazing human beings and we were on
terror like we couldn’t lose a pitch there was an idea we couldn’t sell we
were doing amazing work we were winning awards everything was working in our
favor right so what can go wrong well everything go wrong especially when
you put me in there so there was one campaign in particular
that had just done really well for us in Nature Valley we did the campaign called
three generations when I think I got like fifty million views worldwide
worlds sorry Wired magazine covered it Fast
Company covered it people are debating but it increased sales I was like
fifteen baseline points so crazy for a CPG brand that had been suffering for
quite some time awesome so the next brief was do it
again do it better so we had to get crazier and here’s a bunch of people
that were like super stuck on their ego now they hadn’t failed in a long time
and it was time things were gonna implode and I was gonna make it happen
so we were briefing this idea we came with this awesome notion right the whole
purpose for Nature Valley was to get kids outside so we had a figure out an
angle that would get people riled up and we found that angle and that angle was
that you’re actually more likely to take your dog outside than you are your kids
and that was actually backed by a stat that said dogs I think got like ten
times more outdoor play than kids do but because we are who we are we couldn’t
just leave well enough alone and just leave that stat and bring it out so
people and and let them play with it we actually wanted to create a campaign
where we actually replace dogs with kids so we try to sell this idea we’re
effectively parents come home they walk through the door strolling in and
they’re like Rex Rex come here Rex and of course you think it’s a dog but Rex
is a little boy the father grabs the leash sticks it on his neck who’s gonna
walk them outside this is an amazing idea by the way this would have worked and who said it didn’t get me you just
didn’t see it but anyway so of course and this is
where Craig comes in and the 5% you know we’re selling this idea to the client
we’re totally as we love this idea it’s totally gonna work
clients gonna love it they’re in love with us new problems and Craig and James
if any of you know them and I know a lot of you aren’t in advertising but if you
are you know them they don’t just present they act out their scripts
especially Craig and so Craig has to push it to the nth degree so the kids
aren’t just going out on leash with the dad and they’re not just walking down
the street but they’re also urinating on odds fire hydrants the parents have to
pick up their poop in the yard they’re sniffing each others butts like he’s
just pushing it to the furthest regions of acceptability and he explains of
course after the fact of course none of this is going to happen but we’ve
embedded this amazing notion in the client-side mind and now they can’t get
the sniffing of kids butts of other kids out of their heads so aggressive
campaign now we’ve made it even worse so that’s Craig that’s not even me
that’s not where I fucked up so the clients were almost there but something
exciting happened this gentleman kind of raised his hand and said he was
super interested in the script he loved it like we were shopping it we had we’re
so convinced this was gonna sell that we were already shopping the script and if
you don’t know who this guy is it’s Christopher Guest who produced Best in
Show so if you’ve seen Best in Show amazing show about kind of like the dog
culture of dog competitions anyway an amazing world renowned director he
wanted in he loved the script he thought was hilarious so now we’re super sold
we’re ready to go but oops the client wasn’t so sure as Michael see how it’s
not the client he’s starting the skittles out I’m still sore about that
but anyway the client wasn’t so sure like they were kind of like hemming and
hawing I don’t know man like sticking a kid on a leash I don’t know if I feel
that and we’re you have to trust this right there’s no other logic but you
have to trust us clients hemming and hawing I’m going
away to Vancouver next week I’ll think about it
it’s awesome think about it I’m gonna save the team this is where I come this
is why I start fucking up so I’m not just going to let the client think about
it I’m gonna provide irrefutable proof that this is gonna work
so I take ten thousand dollars out of my own personal budget and I do research on
this ad that hasn’t even been produced consumer-facing research script and all
here having at it see what you think so the client had questions around whether
people would accept it with it like it and so I was like onion approval I feel
it I’ve never felt anything like this in my life I know this is gonna work I’m
gonna put my own money caris you know working I’m gonna Ram it down his throat
he’s retired now by the way and I will not mention his name but he laughs at
this all the time so I commissioned this research that
research comes back and it’s overwhelmingly positive probably the
best research I’ve ever liked response ever received
consumers love the idea and yes or by more nature value granola bars because
of it I mean taking for the account person taking the creative people I’m
super stoked craters are super happy I’m saving the day clients are gonna buy
this account person says wait a minute he’s coming back from vacation do not
introduce this in the first meeting he doesn’t know you did it
you didn’t ask for permission just hang on
we don’t know what he’s gonna say so who you can’t even see that that is Derek
Zoolander walking down like the I walked in super confident it’s like I have this
you know I’m gonna be the hero the world we’re gonna get this through no problem
and yeah yeah Wendy don’t worry I won’t bring up the research we’re gonna we’re
gonna sell the suit and then I’ll slide the research in afterwards just to save
the day everybody walks in super confident super comfortable and what’s
that saying about you know best laid plans well there’s one thing we didn’t
anticipate the thing we didn’t anticipate was grandma you never
anticipate grandma grandma comes out of nowhere for
some reason on vacation our client shopped the idea to his family at a
family gathering grandma did not understand the idea she thought it was
disgusting the client enacted Craig’s actions of peeing on the hydrant it did
not work with Grandma in the case of one person it did not work and so as I sat
there and listened to grandma’s response to our amazing creative idea that’s
gonna work no matter what Kristopher gas is gonna produce it in
this gogo wonderful I decided in my infinite wisdom not to listen to nd this
is a moment I really fucked out and the second grandma came out of his mouth I
was like you know we did research and this research proves without doubt that
this is going to work it’s the best dad ever this is gonna sell Nitra value
canola bars we have this this is Tommy Boy I’m probably ageing myself it’s an
amazing scene you’ll see it on how to kill a sale anyway Chris Farley he’s not
with us anymore again I’m old but I bring this out the
room goes dead silent the creatives are like bullshit yeah this is amazing
you just undercut the client that’s like completely awesome clients stared at me
when he stared at me and that’s when all hell broke loose within two seconds the
meeting was over the idea was killed I was to never bring it up again the
agency was never to bring it up again it was over we’re done it doesn’t end there
Wendy who’s been a friend of mine for years I’ve worked with her at multiple
agencies we get along so well until this very moment she would not talk to me for
a week when he still talks to me now she’s probably texted me in a second but
she wouldn’t talk to me for a week so every day for a week I’d leave a little
gift and I’d laugh but I couldn’t break her she was pissed off of me
and so I’d let everybody down you know in my heroic effort I came in I was
gonna save the day and I just did the whole thing and so what did I learn in
this process because there was no like recovery you know there is no there is
no campaign you didn’t see the kids on leashes anywhere and if it happens I
know all you people are here I will find you and hunt you down or if you can sell
it awesome go for it what did I learn well I learned a few things I think the
first thing is that no matter what you know or what you think you know it will
never be enough to replace the feelings of a client or a person you’re trying to
sell an idea to that’s one – you can annihilate a great great great idea with
one comment with one ill thought action and by leading with emotion rather than
logic the third is that a great account person is indispensable and you should
listen to them always I’ve had two learned that one this way I had never
learned 20 so many years of career and learning to that moment and the final
piece that I learned is that nobody puts grandma in the corner have you ever failed in a project career
or business whether you have or not you can become a fuckup night’s organizer in
your city company or university learn how at fuck up nights comm join the
movement fuck up the system

Stephen Childs


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