An Example of Micro(mis)management
In Monday’s post, I used a quote from an advertising agency executive to warn you about the dangers of creative-by-committee and micromanagement of marketing projects to the point where you have a lifeless, ineffective promotion.
Today, I’ll give you an example to show you how ugly it can get, both literally and figuratively. Knowing what someone else did to ruin a marketing project can help readers recognize what might be going on within your own organizations.
In my past life as a copywriter and project manager for a large insurance company, one of my internal clients was our group sales department. When a new VP of group sales arrived, he told everyone how brilliantly he managed all the marketing and print materials for his former employer. Actions seemed to say otherwise.
For example, one day, the VP stopped my boss and I outside an elevator and complained because the individual insurance sales department always had beautifully-styled sales materials. Of course, they paid for the expensive printing, while the group VP made Scrooge look generous.
The conversation at the elevator went like this:
VP: Why don’t you guys ever give me multi-colored brochures?
My Boss: We just finished a three-color job for you.
VP: That’s not three colors.
My Boss: It’s red, blue and black.
VP: Black’s not a color.
Apparently, black ink simply appears when it’s needed and the printing press has no effect.
The elevator conversation led to my boss (equally a VP) to agree to let the group VP design the kind of brochure he wanted.
Proud to show off his prowess, the VP enlisted the help of two managers in his department. They set out to create the ultimate sales brochure for their field agencies.
The VP’s committee didn’t need me to write copy, but needed our graphic artist to put their design together on her computer. More than once, the three men crowded around our artist’s desk directing her to change colors, shading, and arrangement of graphics.
The 8.5 x 11-inch cover they designed had a solid black background. The copy was reversed out in white. Floating across the page and overlapping were multiple geometric designs like cubes, cylinders and triangles. Each geometric was a shade of orange, lime green, yellow, red or purple. Some geometrics had product names on them.
Imagine a ’70s psychedelic poster mated with the blacklight effects of a disco dance floor.
I’m not exaggerating. I wish I’d saved a copy so I could show it here because as bad as you imagine it, it was worse.
After hours and hours of tweaking, the committee of three was ecstatic over the finished work. When the print run arrived, an initial 250 copies were sent to each field office.
Then the phone calls started. The field managers asked if it was a joke. Many were angry. All said they’d never show the brochure to a prospective client. They demanded new sales materials.
The VP thought they’d get over their negative reactions, but a year later the brochures sitting on supply department shelves were untouched. Unopened boxes were stacked against the wall.
This example shows what creative-by-committee and micromanagement can do to a marketing project. Fortunately, this was one the public never saw. Suppose it was a mail campaign, newspaper ad, TV spot, or Internet page?
I’ll repeat advertising executive Tracy Crowell’s quote from my earlier post. He said this about bad advertising: “I’ve learned through the years it’s client driven. Advertising today is done by committee and micromanagement. It’s the worst I’ve seen in 25 years.”
Micromanagement and creative-by-committee fail far more often than they work. Trust the professionals who write and design every day. If you truly believe your committee’s version is better, test the two variations and get proof.