Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Son las cucarachas"

We lived in Spain for more than five years; it was in the early 70’s,
We lived in Madrid, and I had responsibility for the Barcelona office as well.

There are many stories about our time there; our youngest daughter was born in Madrid, more about her later.

The McCann office was located at first, in front of the royal park in an oldish building, and that is the reason for this story.

We had a German tobacco company as a client; they made cigarettes that were sold in Spain. In those days, the client did not trust the Spanish market to prepare his artwork. He supplied us with a heavily retouched color print of his pack. It was huge 2ft.X3ft. It was stored in our art room in the basement of the agency, in Madrid.

The client arrived with the distributor and asked to see the artwork, I was in our Barcelona office at the time. The photo is solemnly brought up to them, in our Presidents office. They revealed the artwork and it is all scratched up, with bits missing, naturally hysteria is the order of the day. Clients are going nuts and blaming the Agency for sabotaging the launch. People from the Agency are brought in to explain this disaster.

The Art director says it must be the lack of humidity in Madrid, as opposed to the humidity in Germany, where the photo was retouched.
This is not readily accepted by anybody, but good try Jose.

Next the account team comes up, shuffling of feet, and some even less convincing alibis. The hysteria continues, with threats being made about lawsuits and the loss of this big account.

Finally they call up the production guy, Philippe. He had worked for the Agency for 15 years and had never been to the President’s office
before. He borrows a jacket (Spain was very formal in those days), and timidly goes in to face this calamity. Absolute silence in the room, seething clients, they stare at him and when he is asked what happened to the artwork, he replies, “ son las cucarachas, signor”, it’s the cockroaches sir; they like blue, we always have to retouch the Gillette artwork as well.

Stunned silence, finally the client says to Don Alfredo, the president that the agency will have to pay for it. Don Alfredo draws himself to his full height, considerably less than the German client’s 6ft.3inches, and says, “son nuestras cucarachas, nosotros pagamos”, they’re our cockroaches, we pay.
He was a class guy and I loved him, especially for that answer.

Meanwhile I have been called and I am flying back from Barcelona, to take the clients to dinner and do what I can to smooth this situation over. I go straight to the office and the staff is outside while the offices are being fumigated.

I buy a big Serrano ham and go have dinner with the client, I have no shame and I will schmooze him and give him a ham.

It turns out; he has sympathy for me, for having to work in a country where the Ad agencies have cockroaches. I had a hard time keeping a straight face.

We kept the account. Sympathy and ham, it works every time.

“Son las cucarachas senior” I love it, no place else could you have a client crisis like this.

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