Vibrator: Pissing off the ASA, PR blunders, a peek into VCCP's biscuit cupboard and making 'dull' SEO look fun

The Drum's resident gossip Claire Snare keeps her eardrum finely tuned to bring you the latest juice that those sneaky press teams are dying to keep quiet.

Come one, come all to the hive of salacious advertising gossip and marketing industry buzz that is The Drum’s Vibrator.

This fortnight The Drum's gossip girl Claire Snare – nemesis of anyone trying to uphold their good name in the marketing and ad industries – has been privy to some right bloopers from PR companies, of all people, with two recent incidents upsetting the apple cart and leaving teams red-faced. Meanwhile, in another case of putting your foot firmly in your mouth, the ASA were less than pleased when they were royally slagged off at the premiere of The Drum's Shockumentary in London recently. Surely they're used to tongue-in-cheek banter by now, though? Read on...

Pissing off the pen pushers

This week I was invited to The Drum’s exclusive premiere of Shockumentary, a rather brilliant film about shock advertising which you simply must check out on The Drum’s YouTube channel. But I digress. When it finished, the on-screen stars – former Leo Burnett creative director John Jessup, School of Communication Arts dean Marc Lewis, Alex Myers who handles BrewDog’s PR strategy, Ben Williamson from Peta and Death Cigarettes founder BJ Cunningham – took to the stage to talk about the film. As you can imagine, talk inevitably turned to the ASA and the comments were rather uncomplimentary.

Mark Lewis said: “The ASA came to my school to do a talk and it was the most boring thing I’ve ever listened to.” Moments after, Alex Myers began to reminisce about the time BrewDog responded to a warning from the regulator that the use of language on the beer brand’s website was offensive. The incident, which occurred last January, saw BrewDog send a letter saying “those mother fuckers don’t have any jurisdiction over us”. Myers was clearly not alone in his feelings, and after finishing his tale by calling the ASA a bunch of “Burton-suit wearing pen pushers”, BJ Cunningham waded in with: “It’s a badge of honour to get an ad banned by the ASA.”

And then a voice piped up from the back row.

“Ahem, I work at the ASA,” they said.

Ouch.

Cold call

I’m yet to meet anyone who works in marketing or media who actually enjoys conference calls. They can be pretty painful, especially when there are upwards of eight people on the line. Yet I’ve never yet heard of any occasion where an agency actually slags off their client on a call – until this week.

Inevitably there were more than a few red faces amongst those at a London-based PR agency, after one of their employees referred to their client as a “grumpy bitch” while on the call, not realising they were also on the line. I’m told the exact words, overheard by the client, were “God, when is that grumpy bitch turning up?” After a rather awkward, lengthy silence the presentation continued, only for the account member to burst out with “thank fuck that’s over, I thought they might have heard me”. They did love. Apparently said person is no longer working on that account.

Less than presentable

It’s high time our delightful PRs got a bit of publicity themselves, as our second blunder of the week award goes to another London-based PR agency, for an equally royal screw up. Word of warning – never make fun of your client by inserting ‘funny’ lines into a PowerPoint presentation and then forget to get someone to proof read it. Let’s just say this week a rather large and very well-respected search agency, part of a major agency holding group, was left smarting after being shown a presentation with the words “Put something here to make dull SEO look fun”.

I reject your rejection

Speaking of awkward… Death Cigarettes founder BJ Cunningham sportingly revealed that he had once been forced to take on a copywriter after he had refused to accept his job rejection letter and turned up at the office. On being sent his CV, Cunningham responded with a letter saying they weren’t hiring but that his CV would remain on file. Only the guy wrote a letter back saying he would be turning up on Monday anyway. He couldn’t bear to turn him away and so gave him a job – and is still a copywriter at the agency. Ballsy.

Get back to work

Kudos to Net-a-Porter this week for giving its clearly much-loved, outgoing CEO Mark Sebba the send-off of a lifetime. Sebba, who has stepped down from the company after 11 years at the helm, was greeted in the office on his last day by a throng of exotic dancers, steel drum musicians, acrobats, a gospel choir and more. The luxury online retailer turned out its entire staff and was seen applauding him along the corridors as he was led around by a singer with a microphone belting out a cover of Aloe Blacc’s hit single ‘The Man’. Even its global offices had gathered all staff together to sing and clap along, with live video feeds running simultaneously in the Westfield-based offices. In contrast, Sebba’s thank you speech was surprisingly underwhelming, only mustering a “thank you very much, now let’s get back to work”. The magnitude of the occasion had clearly got to him, so all can be forgiven.

Om nom nom!

Meanwhile, who would have known VCCP were a bunch of such cookie monsters! This week the creative agency tweeted the above image and message: Behold the VCCP Biscuit Cupboard!!! The epicentre of the agency…

Heard any juicy stories you want me to know about?

Email me at claire.snare@thedrum.com or vibrator@thedrum.com. All tip offs will be handled in confidence. I promise.

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