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They hire top creative agencies, only to fire them or drive them to resignation. They generally wouldn't recognize a great idea if it tap-danced, yodeled "Guantanamera" and belched smoke signals. They may, however, produce just enough sporadic good work to give creatives hope that more good work can be done for them. Hence, the inductees in our Hall of Shame may not be the worst clients ever. They're just the accounts that creative agencies can't help pitching, though they know they'll probably regret it in the end.

Reebok "It's almost like they're sadistic," says one CD who worked on the account. "They do just enough good work to make creatives believe they can do something great. But in the end, they drive you crazy." The problem: A deep-seated identity crisis and a seemingly incurable case of Nike envy. "There's no consistency because they don't know who they are. You have a meeting, then come back with work based on that -- and they've completely changed the game. Since there was no central idea driving their efforts, they were subject to whatever whims were flying around the hallways that week." There may be a ray of hope for the brand, though -- partly because Reebok no longer has much reason to feel envious of the now-troubled Nike.

Hardee's This fast-food company has changed agencies six times in the last four years. "They put too much power in the hands of the franchisees," sighs one creative director who worked on the account. "You have 200 of these fucking nudnicks who know how to change the oil in a fry-o-lator and suddenly they think they know everything about advertising."

Northwest Airlines When the airline was with Fallon McElligott, some at the agency nicknamed them "NorthWorst." One creative who worked on the account says the client "wouldn't let any work get through the layers," and tended to kill five good ads for every one that ran. When FM finally resigned the account, the agency celebrated by taking all the long-suffering people who worked on it out to dinner.

STARBUCKS Why is it that one of the most successful consumer brands of the '90s has been virtually invisible on the advertising front -- even though it's been paired with some of the top creative agencies, including Goodby Silverstein and Fallon McElligott? Deep down, Starbucks is convinced "they don't need advertising," says one creative director who worked on the account, "because they've grown so much without it." And yet they still feel the need to hire a crack creative agency, whose role ends up being "like a nuclear attack missile force -- your job is to maintain and upgrade, but never actually use it."

Gallo The original client from hell. The brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo were long notorious for making life difficult for folks at Riney as well as among the various hotshot creatives that pitched the account (among other offenses, they killed one of the best pitched ads that never ran -- Mark Fenske's legendary "Wedding Proposal"). One creative who presented to the brothers many times describes it this way: "You were supposed to market to 25-year-olds, and the youngest guy at the table was 70. No matter what you showed them, they'd say, 'Goddamn it, just put the bottle on the screen.' " Word is that the situation has improved since the Gallo kids started running the show.

Sony After doing great advertising in the early days with DDB, the brand went through roughly a decade during which all ads looked as if they were made in Japan. Finally, it appeared that Sony had achieved an advertising breakthrough with a recent award-winning print campaign from Lowe & Partners -- but the campaign, and the partnership with Lowe, were terminated last year. Sony's problem, according to a creative director familiar with the company, plagues a number of foreign brands: "When there's very strong foreign ownership and a weak American management team, the agency gets caught in between and squashed."

Microsoft "Bureaucracy supreme," is how one creative director familiar with the account describes it. "Lots of ambitious young people whose opinions cancel each other out as work makes its way up. It's decision by committee. You can see it in the work. One of the greatest creative agencies on the planet creating

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