You can choose for yourself which advertising guru was the first to say that agencies are only ever three phone calls away from disaster.Â No-one actually knows, so your answer is as good as anyone else’s.Â Your choice will reflect something about your tastes, but also about your age (young people think it was first said in the current recession by some 28-year-old running a dotcom agency:Â I first heard it the year before any 28-year-old was born, back at the beginning of Thatcher’s early-80s recession, and I suspect it was first said pretty soon after the phone and indeed advertising as we know it were invented, some 100 years before).
Anyway, whoever first said it, and when, it lives on because it’s more or less true.Â In our case, we may have gone into this current recession in a state of slightly greater resilience than average, because when things were going well 18 months or so ago we didn’t have any very large accounts dominating our income or profit:Â as a result, since then, we’ve probably taken not just three but at least half a dozen of those phone calls without being completely annihilated.Â All the same, as you can imagine, by the end of this summer no-one was exactly rushing to answer the phone.
Now, though, it’s late autumn, and I think I do just about dare to say that things are a little different.Â On the whole, touch wood, the phone has become a friend again.Â You answer it, and find yourself speaking to nice jolly people wanting to do things, receive proposals, organise meetings, hold pitches.Â From somewhere deep within your pre-recession memory, you remember that whoever it was who said that thing about being three phone calls away from disaster also said that you’re only ever three phone calls away from what I think he described as “triumph”.
Not quite sure exactly what “triumph” might look like, but in any case it’s probably something a little more than just a chance to take part in a 4-way pitch for a fifty grand fee. Â But still, if you call the agency these days, I suspect you’ll find we pick up the phone a lot more quickly, and a lot less twitchily, than we did a few months ago.