Monday, March 05, 2007

23. Lessons From Half An Agency

I was not exactly sure as to what transpired between the owners of Bernard when one fine day it was announced that half of the staff will be moving out to new offices. What was once a small agency was further reduced by half. Our half was the Araneta side. We transferred to the White King building on Highway 54 (now EDSA) near the Guadalupe Bridge. This was so much nearer to their business offices. From then on we were only to do work for their brands and the other half, needless to say, worked on the brands of the other owner. I was lucky to be a part of the half that worked on consumer products but was sad to bid goodbye to the fun Beetle advertising.

The mainline business of the owners on our side was food products. They had a new venture, Republic Soya, which came up with cooking oils and margarine from soya beans. The management on their end consisted of hard-nosed marketing men, Cesar Macuja and Ed Sazon. They were ex Procter and Gamble marketing men. I admired their working style and learned a bit about fast moving consumer goods marketing which helped me in a job that I went into after advertising. The boss who came along with me on our side of the half was Bonggoy Verano. He was a fine advertising man. He was capable of coming up with great campaign ideas, which he presented very well. His temperament and lifestyle would be that be of a creative person which was great for creative output but not quite ideal for account work, an agency function that required a more disciplined working style. We also took with us Mon Gregorio as Art Director.

Bonggoy and I were bachelors and could squander time, which we both have plenty of for all sorts of inane and inappropriate after six behaviors. We used to go out nights together getting drunk and getting in and out of scrapes. He was one person who seemed to attract trouble. A rather garrulous person, he would have an opinion on just about anything, and spoke about them like he was an authority. He, also, thought that most women find him desirable and that he could have anyone of them if he wanted to. Even if he had nothing to do with the production of “live” commercials on TV he would often be at the set meddling with the production but mainly to try to score with the female talents. He had the proclivity to burst out in song without provocation and invariably the song came from some Broadway musical. I usually make myself scarce whenever he was in this mood. I could never get used to his pathetic imitation of Howard Keel.

Our client was worried about the slow progress of the Sola Creme margarine and Sola cooking oil projects. We could not be fired as an agency because our owners were also the owners of our client’s company. To make sure that their development projects will be on time they called up every morning to do some sort of a roll call to the agency staff. Client told me that our work was in the critical path of their network. Not familiar with the lingo I took it to mean that we were obstructing the progress of the project and was at risk of being run over…by events. To a certain extent it really meant that. After being laughed at by Bonggoy when I did a call report of sorts on the meeting I went out to buy a book on CPM (Critical Path Method). Having learned it I started to apply it on the routine processes in the agency. In a later appointment this piece of knowledge came in handy to progress the numerous projects entailed in the job.

A few months before the target launch dates of SolaCreme and Sola Cooking Oil a General Manager was hired in our office. I suspected that this was upon the behest of the client who presumably was becoming more anxious as launch day neared. I had a pleasant surprise when I found out that the new General Manager was Rene Lacson, an old friend, someone close to me and my older brothers. He was my brother Pete’s classmate in Ateneo and later on a regular habituĂ© of the Radio Room in Far Eastern University as a Speech and Drama student. During those days we were regular customers of Ermita dives and every now and then would get into difficult situations but invariably got out of through sheer luck or brilliant brinkmanship. I knew I could work with him.

After the launch of the new products of our clients there was a lull of activities. Rene and Bonggoy were not getting along well and had frequent arguments. I did not stay long enough to find out how they resolved their differences or if they came to a resolution at all. Lucky Borbon, the guy who hired me in my first job had recently transferred to a new ad agency and talked me into joining him. It was really time for me to move on. It was no fun having to witness the almost daily squabbles between my two close friends and I also felt that the opportunity to learn has ceased in this office and I needed to seek new climes that would provide me with more latitude for progress.

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