“Dying of success”

Chapter of the book “THE CLIENT”. Adventures and Misadventures of a Communication Agency.

I still remember that cold March morning when we went to our first meeting with a new client. A large German multinational of worldwide renown, known by all, mainly for its elevators and escalators. The illusion at the beginning of carrying that lavish brand was gradually decaying when we saw the part of the business, not even division, that we had to get published in the media. Of course, in the general and economic press of first row, radio and television, of course…

It was neither more nor less, the stairlifts that were marketed in Spain, more specifically, four models of chairs, of different upholstery, even if with high quality materials and latest technology Made in Germany, so that the elderly or those with reduced mobility did not have to climb the steps in their two-storey houses.

You will not tell me dear reader, even more if you are from the guild, that it is a great challenge, or as it is usually said, to set the bar very high, but very high. That’s why, on the car ride back to the office, the main topic was: “How are we going to do it? “Well, first we’re going to start with corporate and product issues, and then we’ll see what we can come up with to make this tiny part of this huge company newsworthy to journalists and therefore to its audience”.

The first part did not go badly, especially in the sectoral media of publications on the elderly and buildings, but we were running out of models, remember that there were four, and the issues of maximum safety, quick installation, timely maintenance, … were running out, and we were already at the gates of summer.

Then the muse of inspiration entered our office when in a regional newspaper (at that time we had as a client a franchise of education for children, which had centers all over the country, and especially, curiously, in the coastal areas), we saw the news that the beach of a coastal town was very accessible for people with disabilities. We saw the sky open!

As a result, we began to develop a communication strategy based on the Spanish beaches accessible to the elderly or people with reduced mobility, so that our client could promote and lead the flag of accessibility.

To do this, we designed a contest in which citizens could vote for the most accessible beach in their area, they just had to access a website that was divided by coastal provinces and municipalities and click on the candidate beaches, which had ramps, assistance for people with disabilities, adequate facilities for the elderly, among others… Of course, we involved the municipalities, since they would receive the prize and the fame of having the most accessible beach in Spain, and we know how mayors like to appear in the newspapers and have their management applauded.

Result, what a successful communication campaign! First we informed the local media of the candidate beaches, as the votes for the regional ones grew, and finally, with the award ceremony for the national ones. That is to say, our client appeared, as the organizing company and promoter of facilitating access to the elderly or people with reduced mobility to our wonderful beaches in the press, radio and television of all the autonomous communities with coastline. “From Cabo de Gata to Finisterre”, as the song of the late humorist Pepe da Rosa from the 70’s used to say.

But of course, we didn’t stop there, because this campaign was for the summer, of course. So what do we do in the winter months,” said a member of the team that was in charge of this account, “we do the same but for inland cities. Choose the accessible destination, those cities that the commitment of the city council has led them to make life easier for people with reduced mobility, avoiding obstacles, cobblestones, etc.. and facilitating access to public buildings, museums, monuments…

We repeated the success of the first campaign for years, or rather we multiplied by double digits the appearances in the media, due to the fact that over time we became more famous and the competitiveness between cities increased, which turned it into a snowball that grew more and more, we were even imitated by our communication colleagues from Ferrero Rocher, with “the most beautiful town in Spain”, or something like that.

But the end of this success story is disappointment, the marketing manager of this company, i.e. our client, held a series of interviews with a multinational advertising agency, to whom she showed our work and advised her to change our communication strategy 180º. The aforementioned directive liked what she was told and, moreover, to make matters worse, she did not hire them, but implemented the new strategy on her own and without us, which of course did not work.

We could never understand how a professional in the marketing world could manage success in this way. On several occasions, he even told us that when he took the press-books of the most accessible beach and city destination campaigns to the meetings at the headquarters of this multinational in Germany, “they give me the red carpet for how well we are doing in Spain”. Strange, but true.

Chema Martínez
Partner Director of Recursos de Mercado
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