Here, agency nomads share their experiences. Bonus: Maybe you
can learn from them.
Saw nothing but the inside of a hotel room MullenLowe Mediahub's Lavall Chichester was
in Clearwater, Florida, pitching for three days inside a hotel
conference room. "Three days of 12 hours, just grinding slides and
arguments, really, really intense," says Chichester, who is a
global senior VP of search and content marketing. "There's this
little window in the corner of this room, and outside you can see
the beach and sand and it's just paradise."
At one point, he says, everyone gravitated to the window to
longingly look outside. "There was this guy, we think he's an
adman, but we don't know, he was just lying in a gray suit with
shades on the beach. We're like, 'Wow, that could be us.' It was
just a surreal thing," he says. Some of his colleagues went out to
join the suited man, he says, who they imagined had just finished
pitching the client.
To avoid going stir-crazy from being trapped in offices or
nondescript hotel rooms, VML Chief Marketing Officer Beth Wade makes a
point to get out for some culture whenever she can. Even if that
means an early morning alarm. On a recent trip to Cape Town, South
Africa, Wade accepted her clients offer to take their agency
partners out for a 6 a.m. hike touring Lion's Head mountain. They
were back in the office at 9 a.m. "You try to find those little
pockets of doing something so you see a bit of the city, see a bit
of the culture," says Wade.
If your client actually is a hotel, even supposed R&R time
can begin to feel like a grind. Inii Kim, co-founder and creative
director at King & Partners, says the agency recently took on a
new hotel client, and the property visits had a ruthless pace that
took them to five hotels in five days. "It was really tough," she
says. "We had a really tight schedule, interviewing every
stakeholder." Those hotels, however, were in Napa Valley,
California, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. "[In Napa] we had to eat
all the food, drink all the drinks, then we had to wake up at 3 in
the morning to head to Cabo. Then we had to get a massage, eat
different tacos, go to the beach, go to the pool. ... The last part
was tequila tasting. We had to taste Mexico's 12 best tequilas."
Bad luck and bonding
Some team bonding activities are forged through pain instead of
Dentsu's Seiler was in Dubai a few years ago for a regional
meeting, where his team was entertained with a desert ride to a
camp with camel rides, belly dancers and chicken skewers. The next
morning, the meeting was scarcely attended.
"Every single person had gotten food poisoning," he says. "The
only people that could come to the meeting were with bottles of
Not quite so tragic, but potentially more embarrassing,
Terri & Sandy Creative Director Angela
Denise says she and a co-worker bonded fast when they dropped off
their laundry at a Fairmont they were staying at in Santa
Monica—and the hotel combined their laundry. The two had to
dig through to sort out who had what.
The hiccup effect
For the most cringeworthy bonding experience of all, imagine
having to sleep next to a client on a plane. Paul Spriggs,
president for System1 Agency in the Americas, did just that.
On a long-haul flight, he and a client (who he says had a
"badass" reputation) were seated next to each other. The client got
a serious bout of the hiccups, and Spriggs helped dole out some
old-style remedies. At the end of the day, it leveled the playing
field a little bit.
"The hiccups brought the tough-guy facade down pretty abruptly,"
Denise adds that while it might be easier to not have to connect
with travel companions, that's not the case in advertising.
"In this business, it's so different, the relationships are so
different," she says. "These people I travel with have become some
of my best friends."