I talked about the process of leaving advertising in this blog series so I won't go back over that, but I do want to talk about that year a little more in depth and that will be the next job on the list. But first I want to share a couple more things I learned from my time at L/N.
One of the things that happens when you work on a national account on a local level is you have to learn how to play with one foot in each arena. On the local level my media director and I were the big fish. We made the decisions on where ads were placed, what we would and would not recommend to the co-op and why. On a national level our agency was small potatoes. We handled two co-ops and weren't considered big players. At least when I first started.
As I mentioned we had a few national players in our co-op and so I was able to get a few introductions to co-op members and agencies from around the country and to people on the corporate side. Falling back on my stance of "I don't have any idea what I am doing" I listened, I asked questions and I paid attention to the answers. And by doing this I started to get a reputation for the agency as maybe a little more than a small shop content with handling just the two co-ops we had. We started to be asked to pitch other co-ops. We got the nod to present information at national marketing meetings on what we were doing out in the Northwest. And if the agency hadn't been crumbling around us I think Jenny and I and then later Sheila and I could have taken L/N to the next level. As much as I didn't agree with Scott as a business man he was an outstanding Ad Man and pitch guy. I could bring in the facts, the numbers and the face that they were used to seeing at meetings and he brought in the gravitas of having the "AGENCY PRINCIPAL" there the pitch the client.
More than once it was down to us and AFA. AFA was the original advertising agency for Kentucky Fried Chicken. The big dogs in our world. There were two or three agencies handling the majority of the work and AFA was always our main competition. Losing to them stung but it was an expected loss and every time we felt like we were getting that much closer to beating them out. We were shinier (Scott loved newer, bigger and better), they had the bulk of the machine behind them. Almost everything they did was KFC focused and KFC was only one of a variety of clients for us. Of course we each pitched that as our strength. For us it was you will get the benefit of our variety for them it was you will get the benefit of our focus. I still think given another year or maybe two and we would have started winning a few of those pitches. But as they say, it was an honor just to be nominated. And it was a honor to go from being "Jack's new girl" to "You know Denise from L/N right?" I know you are supposed to not care if people know who you are, but I liked knowing that I was making a name for the agency and a name for myself in the process.
Also working with folks from all over the country you form relationships with people online, on the phone and the 3 or 4 times a year you see them face to face at meetings. In Louisville there is an agency that handles the bulk of the print advertising for KFC. About 6 months after I started back with L/N I was at my second national meeting and I sat next to a woman that was just starting with Creative Alliance. AJ. AJ and I hit it off right away. Over COB. Every organization has Acronyms. And every organization uses them in meetings and internal print like you should automatically know what they mean. So in this meeting there was a huge push for more COB. Why were we getting away from COB? COB built the brand! And I look over at AJ and she is paging through her presentation materials and has just the most puzzled look on her face, so I lean in and say...Chicken on the Bone instead of boneless chicken, COB. And this look of relief floods her face and we were friends from there on out.
Now to CA we were the clients, just like KFC was our client and so I had account managers through the years with CA. Starting with AJ who was then promoted to head of her department and she would assign the new account managers to me. I am not sure if it was because she and I were friendly or if it was just dumb luck but my account people through CA were all exceptional. And even being out of the business for more than a few years I still have a handful on my friend list (ah Facebook again)and I get to stay a part of their lives even though I am no longer with KFC, and I get to see pictures of their kids and wish I was closer to play auntie! So there are two lessons here, one is make friends with the boss and you get good people to work with you. The second is watch what you say when someone asks you a random question. Wait? What was that second one? Here is the story, you knew one was coming right?
So Holly was one of my account people and she and I hit it off right away and completely. You know those people you meet that you just feel like you have known forever? She is one of those for me. After Holly and I had been working together for awhile I was back in Louisville for a marketing trip and CA was doing the client relation thing and took me out to dinner and drinks. Holly and I were sitting at the bar and she asks me if I know Cynthia Koplos. Well it was a silly question. I was in marketing and Cynthia was the face of KFC corporate marketing. She is the person that stands in front of the masses at these meetings and presents the corporate marketing plan. I obviously knew her. Then Holly asks what I think of her. Well, thinking before I speak sometimes fails me. What I should have done was said, "Why?" Instead I gave Holly my unvarnished and completely honest answer of what I thought of Cynthia, and I went on for about 5 minutes with it as I had a lot to say about how I felt about her. And when I was through Holly said, "She's my aunt." You could have knocked me over with a feather. I had worked with Holly for (I want to say) at least a year by this point and NO ONE had ever told me. I look over at AJ and she tells me that they have all been sworn to secrecy so that no one would treat Holly differently due to who her aunt was.
So the good thing? I had nothing but praise for her aunt. She is one of those women that I always wanted to be. She would stand in front of a group of sometimes very hostile franchisees and agency people who were trying their best to show how smart they were and take question after question after question and more than her fair share of abuse and she did it wearing a smile and maintaining her composure the entire time. To me she just embodied strong professional woman. And I thought she was funny and smart. Which as you all know to me, funny and smart are the one two punch in personality that trump everything else. I do believe I slugged Holly in the arm and asked her what she would have done if I had hated her aunt? She told me she wasn't worried since I loved her I was obviously a good judge of character. And then the part that made me get all smug for a little bit, Holly told me that her aunt had nothing but good things to say about me as well.
I was completely taken aback. I had no idea she even knew who I was. Years later I am glad to count her as friend, but I will never forget calling Scott Dickinson and telling him that Cynthia knew who I was and LIKED me. Do you know why she liked me? She probably doesn't remember, but I do. She told Holly that I was always careful to come to her after a presentation if I noticed a typo or a transposed number instead of calling it out in front of the room. Now I wasn't ever afraid to ask questions about the actual content of a presentation and to do that in front of the group, but I never understood the perverse pleasure some people took in pointing out silly mistakes. But I did want her to be aware of them since they would be presenting those same foils at regional meetings as well. That small act stood out to her and so she had started paying more attention to what I was doing in the group as well. And she liked me. Or she made all of that up because she was smart enough to ask "Why?" when Holly asked if she knew me.
So that wraps up the lessons part of my second stint at the agency. And really it's the same lessons as the first part, be yourself. By being myself I put the agency in a position to grow. And by being myself (even in the not thinking before speaking part) I was able to show Cynthia a small kindness that stuck out to her, and was able to be honest with Holly how I felt about her aunt. And because of that I have kept the friendship of both women to this day.
Okay, next up...the year of living dangerously! Or how I discovered what busy really means.