The Worst Creative Presentation In My Career

Some people think that working in advertising is all great location shoots and award shows. It’s not. It’s hours and hours of work on project after project. Every now and then you get a really fun project that turns out to be crap. And there are times when you get assigned to a bad project that turns into the best project of your career.

And then there are times when you worked on these projects and you have really bad client presentation. And sometimes for really dumb reasons.

Here is one of these meetings. Probably the worst meeting I’ve ever had. Although it makes for a good story, at the time I wanted to quit the business.

Riunite on Ice, that’s nice – 20 years ago, my creative team was charged with coming up with a follow up campaign to this legendary (bad) campaign. There were many mandatories. You had to show 20-something people drinking the wine. You had to use the product “on ice” and the new tagline or campaign line had to use the words Riunite and ice in the line. After weeks of work, we had created a pretty good idea. (Oh, I forgot another mandatory – we had to shoot at the owner of the company’s house on Long Island). I went with the lead Account guy, Jim, to present the campaign. The lead idea centered on a line: “Breaking the ice with Riunite.” The basic premise is that we were making fun of bad pick-up lines. And that Riunite was a statement enough.

I finished presenting the idea. Everyone loves it. Junior Brand Director, Brand Director, Sales guy, Marketing guy, VP and SVP. Except the owner.

Account Guy: What’s wrong, I can tell you’re thinking about this one.
Owner: You know, with the old tagline line ‘Riunite on Ice, that’s nice,” people remembered Riunite, Ice and Nice – or Riunite is nice. But with “Breaking the Ice with Riunite,” people will remember Riunite and Breaking, and breaking is like cracking, and cracking is like crack, and crack is drugs, and drugs are death. So people will remember Riunite death (he repeated it), Riunite death.

Now, I’m not kidding. This is as close to word for word as I can get after 20 years. But my favorite part of the story was the agency response.

Agency: Do you think we may be over thinking this just a little bit?

We actually produced the spot. It sucked.

Yup, we concepted, sold, produced and spent months on a project. And at the end, it sucked. Just goes to show sometimes even a good idea should have died sooner. The end product really did equal Riunite death.


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