Was Chevy's Abrupt Agency Change Business As Usual Or Harsh?

Viewpoint: Goodby's a Great Shop, But You Feel for Incumbent

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Steffan Postaer
Steffan Postaer
A creative director starts at a new agency. He or she can do one of two things: He can spend a few months getting to know the creative department before making any serious personnel decisions or she can get rid of most of the staff in fairly short order. In my role as creative director, I've always been the former, which is why, upon reading about Chevrolet's startlingly abrupt agency change, I was prompted to tweet the following:

Goodby's a great, great agency but Chevy move seems harsh for incumbents, even by adland standards.

I'm reluctant to say one way of doing things is necessarily right or wrong. That's why I chose the word harsh. It's negative but realistic. After all, this is advertising. We're only as good as our last ad. Client/agency relationships last 10 minutes. And so on.

That said, this action still feels unkind, even vicious. First, the venerable old agency is shown the door (always sad) and then the new one -- having surely worked very hard to get in the door -- is kicked out of it.

We all know the reason why: There's a new sheriff in town. It's a scenario as old as free enterprise. Yet calling the CMO sheriff implies that the agency was the bad guy, and that's not fair. From all accounts, Publicis worked extremely hard to earn this big piece of business. From all accounts, the new CMO gave two shits. If there is a bad guy -- and I'm not sure there is -- it's definitely not the agency.

Sheriff or bad guy, his move was certainly that of a cowboy. America loves cowboys, right? They're like baseball and Chevrolets! Unfortunately, cowboy decisions can also be rash and reckless, and the human toll severe.

And so will come the layoffs and undeserved misery. Advertising in Detroit has taken it on the chin. Whatever new jobs are created by Goodby in Detroit will most certainly pale in comparison to the many that are lost.

Even though Goodby is a terrific agency, maybe one of the best in America, hiring them like this feels -- OK, I'm saying it -- wrong.

Steffan Postaer is vice chairman and co-chief creative officer, Euro RSCG Chicago.
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