This week’s episode brought out the good the bad and the ugly at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. As far as Roger was concerned it was particularly ugly. This was a riveting episode that brought the uncertainties of the agency business, the fragility of client relationships and the vulnerability of people into dramatic focus. It was an especially emotional episode to watch.
A Very Big Blow
Any account loss creates problems at agencies. The loss of a founding, cornerstone, big revenue account is traumatic and creates deep ripple effects. These ripple effects hit SCDP in seven critical areas…staff cutbacks. client confidence, poaching of talent, relaxing of standards, resource allocation, management friction and morale. Unless they are addressed immediately and managed smartly, these ripple effects can converge into a tidal wave that could sink the agency. Roger’s decision to keep things to himself and postpone the agony of bad news was a stupid and egregious error. The stage is set for major defining moments at SCDP which will determine its very viability, dramatically alter partner power and relationships and create a clash of the old guard and the next generation.
Roger successfully convinced Lee Garner to agree to a 30-day termination postponement and then he turned that one and only good aspect of his dinner into a disaster. Every agency executive knows that the agency being fired is always the second party to get the news. So, well before Lee and Roger had dinner, the Lucky Strike folks had already closed the consolidation deal with BBDO and delivered the celebratory handshakes. Once that happened it was a virtual certainty that the news would immediately start to spread at both the client and the agency, rumors would soon hit the street and the press would be calling. Roger had to know that. So, rather letting things sit, Roger should have gathered his partners and rallied their support to do everything they could to get ahead of the story in five key areas. Letting key staff know their positions were secure. Informing clients and assuring them that the agency will remain strong. Replacing the business. Assigning partner responsibilities. Managing the press. By not leveling with his partners right away, Roger deprived them of the opportunity to go on the offense. Instead, the agency was taken by surprise, knocked on its heels, and had to scramble to play defense.