the day someone cancelled a meeting from the lobby

“They refuse to present.” Words that will be etched in my head forever.


When you have been in the advertising business (or any business I imagine) for over 20 years you have a stable of wild & wacky stories.

But.  Gotta tell ya.

Every once in awhile something happens that is so wacky that it reminds you that no matter how long your list of life stories … there will always be another one awaiting you.

Yesterday I added a new one.  I call it ‘the day someone cancelled their own meeting while sitting in the lobby.”

Now.  Let me be clear.  I have canceled meetings because I thought we weren’t prepared.  I have canceled more meetings then I have fingers and toes.  But. I have never canceled a meeting less than a half hour before the meeting (via email I may add) from the lobby of the client I was presenting to after having taken a plane flight to make the visit.

Okay.  Some background first.

If you have been in the advertising business for any amount of time you have worked with client businesses that have multi agency partnerships. For any number of reasons, some smart and some not so smart, a chief marketing officer decides they want (or need) different agency partners managing different aspects of their business. In our business it is just part of the deal. You cannot over think it and you cannot be paranoid (or too much so) and you need to keep the bigger objective in mind – making the client’s business successful. In every situation you have to figure out how to work with the other agencies or work with their ideas (or the client suffers).

This is going to me a multi-agency story.

Now. I have been in a position where I was the lead agency of a large client 5 multi agency partnership coordination and I have been a participant within a 4 agency partnership (among other examples but I am showing the largest groups of ‘frenemy’ partnerships to make a point.  Each situation has some different dynamics and alignment. And keeping within your ‘boundaries’ is challenging (because no one can ever do what you do as well as you do and their ideas always suck compare to yours …). But typically after a little posturing and “you cannot be as good as us” and disdainful looks across the table everyone settles down and focuses on what needs to be done and mostly stays within the boundaries.

The key is just being confident in what you do. Cause if you (and your agency) is really good then what the other guys do and say just doesn’t matter.  Let me say that again. What they do or say just doesn’t matter.

On a side note … I do sometimes believe a multi agency situation insures you bring your best ‘game’ day in and day out. (just don’t tell anyone in an agency that)


This is about a multi agency partnership client.

Here are the cast of characters:

–          Me and my agency partner in crime: A

–          The other agency: WA

–          My main client: B

–          The departmental client contact that manages the other agency’s activities: P

So. This particular client is growing exponentially. One agency (A) is responsible for traditional driving customer traffic strategy and tactics (although is quite capable of doing web based and website type stuff) and the other agency (WA) is responsible for the website and facebook and crap like that (and is capable of doing the other stuff).

Side note: Would I do what they do? Sure. Am I actively pitching for it? Nope.  Waste of energy.  Gotta focus on what our responsibility is especially during this significant growth stage.


in looking at the absurdly aggressive business objectives I had suggested to B that “hey, maybe we could sit in on the next WA meeting and share some thinking so we are all aligned on what needs to be done and how we all think about meeting the business objectives.”

B said good idea.

B sent email to WA saying “hey, A are gonna be attending the meeting. You okay with that?”

WA sends back i-phone email response “Great!”

(time warp here …. move five Days later)

We (A) come wandering into the client’s lobby (out of town for both agencies) for another meeting we had with different client contacts prior to “the meeting to be canceled.”

And we see the other agency representative (WA) in lobby.

Exchange hello’s.

Talk a minute or two.

We head to our meeting.

(time warp here …. move ½ hour later after the meeting we just had)

We (A) and B (three of them) are sitting in conference room talking and telling stories as we wait for the beginning of the 11:00 meeting.

11:05 someone tells another story.

11:10 we are still talking and laughing.

11:15 I look at B and say “hey, I can stay as long as necessary but my partner in crime here would have to step out by noon for another meeting (as I begin to worry the meeting will go long).”

11:21 P (who manages the WA’s activity) enters the room.


After a minute or so P looks at my main client (B) and says “well, they (WA) won’t present.”

Me: (huh?) my partner in crime: (jaw drops)

After a deep breath P says “WA just doesn’t feel comfortable with A here and won’t present.”

(huh? … part 2)

The main client B looks at me and says “well, you should know I received an email about 20 minutes before the meeting from WA saying WA didn’t feel comfortable presenting with you here and wanted to cancel the presentation … and I told them, no, present what you have.”

Me: “really? they said that?”

(in my head: “what the fuck?”

Then me and my partner in crime stand up and start packing up and say “well, if we are the reason we can go and you guys have the presentation.”

–          and then we stand there awkwardly –

P (clearing his throat and looking very awkwardly) says “Well. WA has left the building. But. Will be back later for another meeting and could do it at 2.”

(in my head: “what the fuck .. they left the building?)

B (the main client) “well, I would prefer now.”

P (looking even more uncomfortable): “well, I can try to get WA back but I am not sure.” (and steps out of conference room dialing on cell phone)

A (my partner in crime and I):  Apologize and begin to leave (amidst some B group discussion of how unprofessional WA is being).

P steps back in room “I cannot reach WA so I believe if you want the meeting it will have to be later today.” (silence) “I did suggest to WA that this was a bad idea to cancel the meeting but WA said it had been discussed internally and they all agreed. WA believed in the end that because of the competitiveness between the 2 agencies and lack of clarity on specific roles that it was a bad idea to present.”

Me: huh?

(cancelled meeting story ends here … although be sure we all at A scratched our heads envisioning under what scenario we would ever totally cancel a meeting rather than even editing what we planned to say and/or any other variety of options).


This story and situation is mind boggling to me.

On so many levels it makes my head hurt.

Let’s not even approach the professionalism aspect.

Let me just focus on confidence.

Agency confidence.

As an agency you either believe you have ‘the goods’ or you don’t.

Good agencies don’t steal ideas from other agencies (why would any good agency want to implement another agency’s idea?) it would be absurd.

Would another agency have a strategic business thought that I could leverage ideas from? Sure.  In fact that is kind of what you hope for.  Smart thinking begets additional smart thinking.

AND you know what? If someone comes up with a better idea then, dammit, they deserve to get credit for it.

Good agencies never fear presenting in front of other agencies. Yeah … yeah .. yeah  … it can be a little nerve wracking but probably no different than a president who has to present in front of past presidents type nerve wracking.  You are being judged by peers. That is always tough.

But. You know what?

The good and the strong and the smart take the podium and … well … be good.

I cannot EVER envision making the decision agency WA made.  Under any circumstances.  Even if I wanted to steal the business.


I still laugh when I think about this story. Mostly I laugh because I have never encountered this before and it reminds me that just when I think I have seen it all in the ad agency business something like this comes along.

Written by Bruce