New Business in The Dot-Com Glory Days

Back in the day, digital marketing was pretty consistently an after-thought for many agencies and companies. I worked at a Big 10 Ad Agency around the time we were all trying to get integrated. It was a great job in many ways and one of my favorite parts of my work was producing new business pitches. That meant scheduling responses to RFPs, assigning teams, producing the responses, estimate, scope, SOW, etc. Once in a while, it meant working with "Big Grey" to fit our piece in an integrated pitch. 

We usually just provided numbers and some pretty banner ad graphics. 

However, one day we received a call from uptown one day with a request to produce the entire presentation for a $40 million pitch, excluding media spend. Our financial piece of the pie was potentially 5-10% - but the responsibility for making sure the multi-media presentation ran perfectly? 100% ours. 

We had a week. I did what any normal producer would do and brought multiple changes of clothing, toiletries, and bedding to my office. And hunkered down. 

Truth be told, I don't remember much of that week. I remember a lot of emotion and panic. And I recall a lot of delivery food. 

Soon enough, we were on a flight to Houston. The CEO and various agency presidents took a private jet around noon so they could get in a good round of golf and a nice meal. Me? I went with the team of freshly scrubbed newly minted account people from uptown. We flew coach near midnight. The pitch was at 9AM. 

My team had the presentation on three separate laptops. We had zip drives. We had it loaded and tested and backed up as many ways as possible at the time.

We got to the hotel, set up the two laptops we had on hand. And the links don't work. The presentation is 99% functional. And I don't have the programmer with me. 

Our Global Account Director shows up around 2 AM - just as all hell breaks loose. A junior account guy is throwing up from food poisoning or stress or who knows what. A junior account girl is huddled in a corner hugging her knees and rocking back and forth, crying and saying things like "Ed Meyer is going to kill us. We are all going to be fired and then dead in an alley." and "I am going to kill myself if this fails. Do you understand me? I will just DIE."

As an aside, I met Ed Meyer a number of times during and after this event and I do not for a moment think he would have had us killed.
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I spent about an hour trying to calm people down while trying to troubleshoot the problem. Finally, I gently suggest everyone leave the room and get some sleep. Then I have to throw them all out with some producer strength juju.

I got the emergency tech guy on the phone and we spent the next hour walking through every line of code until we find a way to solve the problem. We tested and double tested again. Around 4 AM, we decided it going to have to be okay. I check into my room to get some sleep before our 6 AM dry run breakfast meeting.

Back in the conference room a few hours later, the senior staff walks in, rested and sharp as they should be. And we run through it. Perfect. The support staff and I follow behind their limo and head out to the corporate headquarters where the pitch was being made. 

We are apparently unexpected and we are shown to an empty utility area with no chairs. The three of us sit on the floor in our suits, waiting for either a happy senior staff walking out, or for us all to be fired (or thrown in the East River, depending on who you ask). 

Two hours later, the senior staff walks past us and Ed Meyer stops and says "Who did this presentation?" 

Crying girl immediately points to me. SHE DID IT. 

He said "It worked perfectly. Nice job."

And junior account guy says "I helped."

End scene. 

Rebecca RyanComment