Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Jumping through hoops

Okay, I'm now getting grumpy. A lot grumpy.

After having my bank card stopped by my bank because some cretin nicked the details and went on a spending spree in the Philippines, I am expecting after ten days to get my new card sometime today. This means I will be able to spend money again – and make up for a weekend lost to being cashless.

My plan is to invite myself out for dinner. I am not sure where I will go yet, but it will be good. I like to treat myself well occasionally and I have narrowed my choices down to a few places, each of which I am sure will provide me with an excellent meal in a fine atmosphere. Wine will be drunk and I'll have a truly fascinating conversation with myself. Who knows, I might even take myself home and ask me in for a cup of coffee...

When I get to my chosen restaurant, it is my plan to have a look at the menu, select a dish and ask (via the maitre'd) for the chef to cook it for me to see if its what I would like to order. If it is not what I want, I will ask him to cook something else instead and I will, when it arrives, see if its a better option. I might, being an Olympic-level procrastinator, then ask for dish number one to be brought back so I can compare the two side by side. Hell, you know what? I think I'll take both dishes home so that the Lovely Anna can give me her opinion.

Then, because I want a really good dining experience, I will take both dishes back and summon the chef. We'll sit around the table and I'll tell the chef where the Lovely Anna thinks he went wrong. I'll also make some suggestions on how he can improve the dish. The chef, at this stage, should become quite tetchy. Lets christen him, "Tetchy Chef". I will ask him to humour me and once he has altered the two dishes as per the Lovely Anna's suggestions, I'll take them home again and ask her opinion.

Fresh from receiving the Lovely Anna's opinion, I will return to the restaurant and will summon the Tetchy Chef and the Maitre'd and suggest that perhaps the original version of the dish is after all, the better option. The Tetchy Chef will disappear into the kitchen and will reappear after some time carrying the dish that I and the Lovely Anna have so helpfully perfected for him. As he and the maitre'd prepare to unveil the dish, I will beckon a recently arrived young gentleman over and ask him to reveal the contents of his satchel: A Domino's pizza.

Placing the pizza next to the Tetchy Chef's dish, I will then invite all the other diners to "tell me what they think". I am of course, deeply aware of the value of market research. When the Tetchy Chef's dish is declared the better, I will then agree to have that dish served to me. (Me allow personal preferences to override market consensus? Heaven forbid!)


I want it for the same price as the pizza! And I'd like to have the sauce from Tetchy Chef's first offering. And the chips too. Also, would the Tetchy Chef mind awfully if he used the same pepperoni's from the Domino's pizza? You see, I want Duck a la'orange with chips, cheese sauce and pepperoni. And can it all be organic please. Organic's very "in" these days.

When my meal eventually arrives at my table, I will begin the long, laborious and not altogether pleasant task of chewing my way through the hideous concoction of clashing, lukewarm flavours. My witty and erudite conversation with myself will dry up as I try to look like I'm enjoying the results of my intervention in the Tetchy Chef's efforts. With the ingredients of the meal curdling in the boiling cauldron of my stomach I'd order more wine to try and soothe the heartburn. I'd glug down a huge draft, failing to notice the little raft of saliva floating on its surface...

Eventually, like most nightmares, the meal will come to an end. The Maitre'd will present the bill along with a mint. Of course, I will then take great umbrage. "What??? Twelve pounds??? Are you bloody mad? Hell, I've never had such a disgusting meal in my life! I have heartburn, a belly ache, and the wine to be quite honest, was bloody awful. Tasted like a smoker's spittle! Lets make things quite clear", I'd continue, "I have had to help you here. I have had to get my Lovely Anna to help. And I had to get all the other customers in the restaurant to help. You are supposed to be professionals! And you wanted to charge me two times as much as the cost of the pizza? I am not prepared to pay for this."

Now, I'm sure there are only a very few people on the earth who would torment a Maitre'd and a Tetchy Chef in such a way, but let me tell you, that if the Maitre'd and the Tetchy Chef worked in marketing, such mistreatment is rather more common. Common enough for me to feel bound to blog about it.

It is truly staggering the amount of "free meals" that are cooked in various creative studios around the world. Clients expect their agencies to offer a range of options and to be fair, agencies have gone along with this. Hell, I know I do. We have to jump through the most ridiculous number of hoops to satisfy clients that they are getting their money's worth. We have to endure "spouse input" ("she's done a course in interior design and is quite arty") and we have to be good natured about shoehorning the ideas of the client's "niece at art college" into our work.

I have lost count of the number of times I have had to explain to an incredulous client that because he wanted this, this and this added to his job he has to pay more. ("But you quoted me!") I have also been told so many times that "I could get it done cheaper in India" that I now wholeheartedly recommend the client takes his brief and fucks off to India.

Clients demand cleverness. They demand clarity. The need ideas that are crystalline and pure yet so many insist on amateurishly mixing awkward, ugly cocktails of ideas and influences. They work against, not with their agency and they make us try stuff we know will fail ("oh please just humour me...")

As agencies or lone "guns for hire" we have portfolios of work. Most of us have websites where the work can be seen. Clients or potential clients should be able to see quite clearly whether we meet their expectations. They don't need us to re-prove ourselves by doing expensive (to us, free for them) pitches for their business. Go by reputation. Go by track record. And then when you've selected us, don't try and change the way we work. Don't interfere unnecessarily, you'll usually end up muddying the water.

Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

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