Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For whom the bell tolls

Chapter Nineteen


I was able to make a relatively smooth transition to another St. Louis Agency, DMB&B (D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles). Interestingly enough, my new job had me managing the advertising account of SBC Communications, the parent company of Southwestern Bell which had recently merged with Pacific Bell. The Telecommunications business continues to evolve from the historic breakup of AT&T in 1984. Somehow, SBC managed to get approval to merge two baby bells.Manifest destiny or survival or just expert financial and political maneuvering, I really can’t say. The irony is that one merger caused my job loss and another resulted in my hiring (for a time).

I joined DMB&B, St. Louis in the middle of 1996. DMB&B St. Louis is perhaps most famous for the original Budweiser “Frogs” commercial. Bud-weis-errrrr. As one of three supervisors assigned to the SBC business I was poised to learn a new category (for me) and witness an historic time for Telecommunications industry up close. It’s a big category of business to be sure. SBC has approximately 110,000 employees and with its acquisition of Pacific Telesis (The parent of Pacific Bell) it reported combined 1996 revenues of $23.5 Billion. SBC moved their offices and most of their key marketing decision-makers to San Antonio, Texas. As an account with a lot of clout and with over $100 Million to spend on consumer media they were highly sought client prospect. D’Arcy calculated that they could continue to manage the account from St. Louis. This mis-calculation and the client’s desire to pare down their agency roster eventually led to D’Arcy losing the business, effective at the end of 1998. Here’s how the St. Louis Business Journal reported that account loss:

“SBC Communications, one of D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles’ largest clients, pulled its work from the St. Louis advertising firm after more than 30 years. The SBC business represents about a quarter of D’Arcy’s revenue, which was an
estimated $31.5 million last year, sources said. SBC notified D’Arcy of the decision Monday. The telecommunications giant will send advertising developed here to agencies SBC works for in Austin, Texas and San Francisco. In a nutshell: I was a key man on two of St. Louis’s top advertising accounts - Both moved their business elsewhere after mergers. Both centralized their marketing function outside
St. Louis. (Some strategic career move I made coming to St. Louis, huh?)

note: This blog is part of a larger book that can be downloaded FREE, chapter by chapter, at
note:For Whom the Bell Tolls is a Hemmingway novel but the title comes from writing of John Donne in the 1600s. "No man is an Island, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."

The Boatmen's Guy

Chapter Eighteen

The Boatmen’s Guy

I’m no business scholar, but I can tell you one thing, American Business is changing. Consolidation is a reality in almost every industry from fast food to aerospace. The big guys are getting bigger. It’s really about survival. And it’s bound to affect everyone who works for a living in this country. In 1996, I moved from Miami to St. Louis to manage the Boatmen’s Bank business for TBWA Chiat/Day. That opportunity was a great one for me. I was Account Director at one of the nation’s premier creative agencies. The advertising for Boatmen’s featured TV spots staring Thom Sharp as “The Boatmen’s Guy.” Using his folksy midwestern brand of humor to pitch everything from Home Loans to branch Grand Openings he helped make the bank seem approachable and friendly. If you lived in Missouri between 1990-1996 you probably encountered “The Boatmen’s Guy” on TV from time to time. I was the last guy to manage that account.

Here’s why:
On August 30-31 in 1996 The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal contained stories about NationsBank’s intention of acquiring Boatmen’s in a mega bank merger that would make NationsBank the 4th largest bank in the U.S. In spite of grass roots efforts lead by a KMOX Radio and The Everyday section of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch to “Save The Boatmen’s Guy” it became quite clear that NationsBank had no room in their advertising templates for Thom Sharp’s character or TBWA Chiat/Day’s brand of advertising. The New York Times on October 2, 1996 featured Hugh McColl Jr., the chairman of NationsBank in its Business Day section. Here’s part of what they reported: “Our goal has been to build a very strong national company,” Mr. McColl said, “and that’s been our goal for 25 years.” First, the bank built a strong presence in the Southeast, and when theregional interstate banking laws allowed it to expand nationwide - due in part by personal lobbying by Mr. McColl - it set its sights higher. Indeed, Mr. McColl was tempted by a merger offer with Bank-America Corporation a year ago, although that potential blockbuster of a deal foundered on the question of who would run what would have been the nation’s first coast-to-coast banking institution” The banking landscape continues to change to this day. Bank America and NationsBank eventually found a way to get hitched. My position became moot. Boatmen’s Bank was a vanishing entity. I became the new business guy. Another stint as agency rainmaker. It was great fun but precarious, as usual. No new business precipitation, no future. (It’s a brutal deal but that’s the way it usually works.) New Business takes time and TBWA Chiat/Day, it seemed didn’t have any more of it to spare on St. Louis. They decided to cut their loses and closed the St. Louis office. The announcement of the close became official in November of 1997. The office was a drain on the system that included offices in New York and Venice, California (where the real action is). TBWA Chiat/Day St. Louis was crippled by the Boatmen’s account loss. Here’s how the St. Louis Business Journal reported it in its November 17-23 issue: “TBWA Chiat/Day, the advertising agency best recognized for developing the ‘Boatmen’s Guy’ campaign, will close its St. Louis office Dec. 31. The agency, employing 36 locally, is shutting its doors to concentrate on the New York and Los Angeles markets and on larger clients, including Nissan and Taco Bell.” A year later NationsBank and Bank of America’s bank merger was well under way. And no-one at the Bank is sweating bullets over the fate of an advertising agency. Believe me.

This blog is part of a larger book that can be downloaded FREE, chapter by chapter, at 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Work the program and be your own boss.

Six men wait in a conference room. Each has been escorted in and advised that Mike would join them in about five minutes leaving time for any others who might be running just a little late. The online job posting for “Inspector $65,000” is why we’re here.  The office is sparse with functional office furnishings. I arrived more than 45 minutes prior to the appointment but I didn’t go in and sign the sheet until #3.

“So is everyone ready?” I felt compelled to break the awkward silence in the room. Only one answer. It came from the young guy closest to the door and last to be seated. (He is #6). “Yes, let’s get started,” with a mildly gung-ho attitude that brings a smile or two.  The ice was broken but only for a moment. The room returns to a calm. As if on cue,  Mike entered the room. He was confident. He has a Florida tan offset by the bright yellow company polo shirt with black American Building Contractors embroidery. He was also wearing a lanyard with photo and Home Depot logo. He was instantly engaging and wastes no time delivering his message. “I’m sorry about this format but we’ve found that talking to a group like this is best way to answer questions. You’ve responded to an ad that says ‘Inspector’ but in reality this is a sales position. ABC has a unique relationship with The Home Depot to perform inspections and contract roof repairs due to hail damage.” Mike goes on to explain that ABC is growing. There are opportunities to earn pretty good money. It is an easy sell because once the connection with a homeowner is made and hail damaged is determined the repair is 100% paid by insurance. You will note there is a number on your applications and that is the order in which you signed in so I will meet with each of you one-on-one in that order.

“So, we’d work as independent 1099 subcontractors?” says the guy next to me who shared with the group that his family was actually in the roofing business. “Yes, but we’re going to do everything we can for you to be successful,” offers Mike. “What about expenses? You said something about a stipend,” asked the guy across the table from me. (He is #4 on sign in sheet.) He has construction experience and like me is not sure he wants to be climbing up on rooftops as a guy in his 50s. “Oh yeah, we want you to have something to work with to pay for gas and expenses so we offer $300 a month… Once you get rolling though we pay $100 per contact on those who agree to inspection by appraiser and $200 every time you get a start work contract and another nice commission when the work is done, say $2,500 on a $10,000 job.” 

Just then, Mike is called out of the room. He apologizes and offers the group one of his managers to answer questions while he takes a call. The manager accepts the chore and answers a few more general questions about earning potential and how the system works. “If you have a good work ethic and work the program you can certainly make $65,000. Some make a lot more.”

“So you have to go door-to-door?” (#5 presses.) “Well it stands to reason that you would want to work a neighborhood that has been hit, especially when one of their neighbors has ABC signs up and yellow tape  is up and guys (with their shirts on) are installing a clean new roof," offers the manager. “I don’t want to go door-to-door” says #5 “This is not for me.” He leaves the room, clearly not persuaded.

Mike is neatly assembling manila folders as he conducts his one-on-one interviews. My name is on one of them (#3). “It’s really up to you.” This isn't an interview as much as it is recruiting I am thinking that evening. By now, Mike is probably on a plane heading back to Deerfield Beach. I have his card. (It's Black with gold foil letters.) Maybe #6 will take the challenge. I told my wife about this meeting. She said with a sort of funny face, “Roofing sales, are you nuts? Why don’t you find something you are passionate about?”

Friday, August 3, 2012

But enough about me...

Morgan is a marketing communications professional with a mission: “Make Good Brands Better and New Brands Known.” Morgan earned his MBA from The University of Miami Graduate School of Business. He also completed his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Miami - a double major (graphic design and creative writing). In 2010 Morgan founded Morgan Studio/East with the goal of helping companies with planning and execution of marketing communications.

Wes served as Director of Marketing and Communications for a top contractor based in Southeast Kansas with 800 employees and offices in KC, Wichita, Tulsa, Dallas, and Northwest Arkansas (Crossland Construction Company 2010-2011).

Previously he was Global Communications Director for a publicly traded manufacturer of welding and cutting equipment (Thermadyne) and wrote and implemented systematic marketing communications programs for 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. He headed up marketing communications for two large successful privately-held firms in St. Louis (HBE and Clayco) from 1998-2005. He’s also advised countless other businesses – large and small about strategic marketing and branding.

Wes has been involved in marketing efforts of a broad range of consumer and business-to-business products and services. He spent the early part of his career in advertising where he contributed to new product development, consumer, professional and trade communications for a variety brands including Heineken, Matchbox Toys, Pepsi-Cola, SkyBox Trading Cards, GameTek Computer Game Software, Campbell Soup Foodservice, and Rich-SeaPak Frozen Foods.

Wes is an active member of the St. Louis chapter and is past-president of the the American Marketing Association (two terms) and is also a member of the Advertising Club of St. Louis, the Public Relations Society of America and The Business Marketing Association.


Communications planning, message development, positioning, brand review/audits, public relations, reputation management, crisis communications, investor/stakeholder communications, employee communications, training, sales support, interactive communication, customer/consumer research, product development.

But enough about me...How did you like my last movie?