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April 16, 2003
The Liz Account
 

You'll never hear Luke Sullivan promote his latest update to his book "Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!" with a trite slogan like, "NEW and IMPROVED, now with 20% more paper!" Luke knows better, and teaches better. A favorite of ad people worldwide, "Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!" has been updated and will be hitting bookstores this month. In a new excerpt from "Whipple," printed here on Talent Zoo, Luke explains the perils of accounts that hop from agency to agency -- like the "Liz" account.

The Liz Account

Then there's Liz. Liz is a glamorous and famous brand. Everyone knows Liz.

Over the years, the Liz account moves its tired old derriere from agency to agency to agency to agency. Every shop along the way thinks, wow, what a catch, and a year later every one of them has that hang-dog look of desperation.

The thing is, many Liz companies make products that are incredibly great. But you couldn't tell it by their ads which are always terrible no matter which agency they're currently shacking with. Good products, though, and that's the shame of it.

About once every two years, you'll see this client's name pop up in the trades: the honeymoon's over, old agency is out, new agency in. Photos are taken of big smiles shaking hands in front of banners with corny lines like "Partners in Progress" or "Thanks For The Biz, Liz."

"Compton & Curry Walk Away with $65M Liz-Co," reads Adweek. Six months later Compton is in chemical-dependency treatment and Curry's on the phone to Adweek with something about "creative differences." Liz is back at the altar and agencies are lining up, lured by the siren song of that blue-chip logo still looking "okay" after all these years.

I have a friend who just started working for a Liz client.

One day the client phones my friend, says, "Okay, I want you guys to start thinking about our next TV campaign. And don't worry. I already have the elephant."

She was serious. She actually said, "Don't worry. I already have the elephant."

She had, in fact, already booked an elephant through an animal trainer. She didn't have the idea all worked out but felt certain that the marketing answer was somewhere in the whole pachyderm thing. All that was left for the agency to do was coax the idea out of its pen at the zoo and onto primetime TV.

See, Liz's problem is that she thinks she knows advertising; she already has her own executions in mind. She knows enough to recognize somebody else's good work when she sees it, which is why she's always flirting with the good agencies. But she doesn't know enough to let them solve the problem. She thinks she knows better.

Once they're in bed with her, the mask comes off and Liz says, "All right, scribblers, here's the idea I want executed," and she proceeds to bend them around like red licorice.

One morning, long after the excitement of that famous logo is gone, you'll roll over in bed and see Liz without make-up. Not a pretty sight.


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Luke Sullivan is insightful, interesting, inspiring, and good for advertising. From messages like “Be Simple” to “Slow Editing” to “Stay Humble,” Luke writes, talks, teaches, and even preaches the business of sound advertising. Praised by Lee Clow, Tom McElligott, Dan Wieden, and Tim Delaney, Luke remains modest and timeless. 

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