Thursday, October 13, 2005

4th Quarter Blues

I hate the 4th quarter. Most agency execs do. In fact, I've spoken to a few agency veeps and CEOs in recent weeks, and invariably one of us would whine: "I hate the 4th quarter" and everyone else would nod, sagely & knowingly.

Loyalty flies out the window in 4Q.

The 4th quarter is when clients start wondering, "What else is out there?" They start to wonder about budgets - budgets spent and budgets to-come. They start picking up the phone when competitive agencies ask for a get-to-know-you cup o' joe.

It doesn't matter how much the client likes you. It doesn't matter how good a job you've done. The age-old truism, "Variety is the spice of life" rears its head in the 4th quarter.

This is the season of the wandering eye.

We have a client with whom we've worked for 8 years. It's been a superb relationship. By the client's own admission, 2005 was the best year yet. In fact, the worldwide tour (70-countries!) that we pulled off - seamlessly, and without a single legitimate news hook, by the way - led several internal executives at the client company to suggest that Summer 2005 represented the best PR effort in the company's 20+ year history.

But, it's the 4th quarter. So, we're "under review."

I am working in tandem with another agency CEO to participate in this particular review. We have a friendly co-opetition: sometimes we work together, sometimes we compete. He asked me the tough question: "Can we win this? It's tough for the incumbent to win." I agreed and went about explaining, defending, strategizing, etc. We're moving forward. End of story? Nope: two weeks later, one of HIS long-term, ostensibly happy clients asked SHIFT to participate in an agency review. I called this agency CEO to ask him if he's planning to participate; after all, "It's tough for the incumbent to win, eh?"

He just sighed, quietly, into the phone receiver. "Man, I hate the 4th quarter," he said.

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