Saturday, May 31, 2014

Failure Coach XLVIII

Hamburgers to Healthcare

“Okay Alan I get that you didn’t want to set the agenda for the meeting with the Margulies’ curator or our client at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College. Were you able to get any feedback from these two contemporary art curators about their feelings about the Victoria Valentine Art Collection or, for that matter, Rachel Davis Fine Arts? Did you even ask them what publications and/or media they read, watch or visit online? I can’t blame you of course. It was my partner Mr. Bluestone who dropped the ball on this one. How was the Martin Z. Margulies Warehouse? I’ll bet that was a trip.”

Alan was always amused by Jan’s rapid fire questions and interrogation style. It was sort of like she was a reporter herself. She always seemed to be trying to fill in the boxes. Her approach helped her clients understand the likely flurry of questions that might come from the news media in a crisis situation. It was less effective, in fact, when she was digging for a strategy for pitching a story. As serious as curators are, they aren’t routinely stressed out by issues of life and death, consumer advocacy and health risks. She also felt less comfortable with the various audiences in the art world of collectors, curators, administrators and estates than those of hospital administrators, staff, nurses, doctors and healthcare in a community at large. She knew this was a missed opportunity and she knew Alan was not accustomed to being an account executive. She knew now that Abbeshire & Bluestone would have been better served if they sent an intern along for the ride. At least then, a creative brief and enough to paste together a little relevant background information would be a starting point as Abbeshire & Bluestone built strategic platforms for the Rachel Davis Fine Arts and Allen Memorial Art Museum game plans. It would fall to junior staffers to extrapolate formal platforms for both accounts. It would then be Jan and Dan who would, for different reasons, challenge the validity of those documents. Jan was always looking for hooks to appeal to editors. Dan was always looking for differentiation points to guide any creative endeavor from gallery signage to exhibition brochure and branding. The short term proof of the pudding for any strategy platform would be story placement (for Jan) and creative assignments (for Dan). It was these internal copy assignments which grew out of research that delivered the aha moments. The sweat of secondary research of all that was recently published, broadcast or uncovered via social media analytics, Jan and Dan agreed, was always best if validated with real players (primary research through dialogue). The real players according to Jan and Dan were those leaders engaged in the transactions between manufacture to end user (whether it was hamburgers or healthcare).

“Thank goodness we don’t have to rely on Alan Edgewater to write strategy for us. His exploration in Miami may have solidified the connection between AEFFSF and AMAM. It may have even made AE a little more skilled at talking the talk in artspeak (about negative space and conceptual art) but it makes him not in the least bit insightful when it comes to making a college art museum or auction house/appraiser better at reaching their intended audiences.” Jan was in a rare mood and it was this sort of ranting stream of consciousness that propelled her agency forward. Sometimes this sort of out loud dialogue helped Jan decide to resign accounts too. Dan was never willing to talk himself and the agency into walking away from an account once won. 

Dan was famous for telling client prospects to fish or cut bait when it came time to sell a campaign, however. He might also conclude early in the quest for a new account that this dawg won’t hunt when it was a question of dedicating resources to win an account. But when it is time to show a new account what he (his people and his agency) were capable of…it was go time. He did not entertain quitting as an option. The difference between Jan and Dan was as simple as linear logic versus working to make your breaks. So it was: dollars and cents versus swinging for the fences at Abbeshire & Bluestone with these personalities managing the left and right brain of the firm.

“It doesn’t matter if we are selling Hamburgers or Healthcare,” Dan liked to say in creative strategy briefings. “We follow steps that lead us to our unique brand of solution. It’s smart. It’s creative and it comes with flawless execution.”         

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