What if restaurants charged like creative agencies? The other side…

A few months ago, information pills this video produced by Scofield Editorial, symptoms Inc. made the rounds virally among us creative industry types. It’s well done, price and it poses a compelling question: what if customers in normal retail settings – where no one ever questions the price of things – behaved the way marketing people often treat their creative vendors? If you haven’t seen it, watch it.
Then read my response from the other side of the table .

The original video:

My tribe of creatives made this a minor YouTube sensation, with 1.1 Million views and climbing. Why? Because it’s true: the work we do is often not treated with the respect it deserves, or valued as highly as it ought to be – and certainly not as highly as we think it ought to be.

Which brings us to the other side. I remember my first experiences as a client-side marketing manager dealing with a big-city, big-ticket advertising firm. And I can tell you, clients aren’t the only ones with a problem saying “the price is the price”.

My response: a script for a viral YouTube video.

(Imagine it in a YouTube frame with millions of views under it. Then imagine laughing heartily and forwarding it to all your marketing industry buddies using the link below.)

What if restaurants charged like creative agencies?

A Funny, Poignant, & Wildly Popular Viral Video

(© 2009 Dennis Van Staalduinen – contact me if you want to shoot this. But note that I call dibs on the waiter part.)


(Restaurant interior. Attractive professional couple is seen wrapping up their meal.  A somewhat arrogant-looking waiter is seen hovering in the background.)

(MALE DINER waves WAITER over to table.)

WAITER: (With a heavy euro accent) Yes sir. Everything is all right.

MALE DINER: Fine, fine.

WAITER: Of course it is.

MALE DINER: We’d just like to settle up.

WAITER: You will receive your bill then, yes? Wait one moment.

(WAITER LEAVES. FEMALE DINER leans toward MALE DINER, hushed voice)

FEMALE DINER: Are you going to tip him? He was obnoxious, arrogant, and he kept pushing stuff at us that was way different from what we ordered.

MALE DINER: Well yes, but we’re done now. Let’s just pay and get out of here…

FEMALE DINER: Then he through a hissy fit when I tried to send the undercooked beef back.

MALE DINER: He’s a creative soul honey, they’re sensitive…

FEMALE DINER: Oh, and then there was the “Brainstorming session” over the wine…

MALE DINER: Honey, we were looking for a creative option… Oh, shhh! He’s coming back!

(WAITER re-appears. Hands large portfolio to MALE DINER, who unzips and scans it)

MALE DINER: Oh, that’s very nice. Full colour. See that honey? Very creative presentation…

FEMALE DINER: (looking at price) Hey! $1,159! What’s going on here?!?! We only ordered $100 dollars worth of food and wine!

MALE DINER: What?(looks again) This is wrong. We asked you to help us keep our bill under $100!

WAITER: And I did. Look. Everything is itemized. Your food and wine came to $98.50 with a few dollars for tax.

MALE DINER: But we already paid you that weird $25 retainer when we walked in…

WAITER: Yes yes, standard industry practice.

MALE DINER: Then, you asked for a $50 fee when you brought our food…

WAITER: For phase 2 deliverables. Yes yes. All in the proposal I submitted, and all standard industry practice.

MALE DINER: Right, so I’ll give you $25, and… you can keep the change.

WAITER: (icily) Hup, hup, hup. Very generous sir. But. Let’s look at the invoice shall we?

(he snatches the bill and begins pointing and gesticulating)

You have forgotten about disbursements, expenses, colour photo-copying charges for menus and your bill, the standard kitchen service fees, revision fees for re-cooking your beef madame – that is not free! Then licensing fees for brainstorming music, licensing for third party ingredients in your food, professional consulting fees for the Chef and myself….

FEMALE DINER: (grabbing the bill back) And this item: “Yum Factory”. What is that?

WAITER: (changes tone to pride) Why, of course that is our proprietary kitchen management process. Presumably that’s why you came to us in the first place….

MALE DINER: No, we came because we were hungry, and because we had a bit of money left over in this month’s budget for one special meal, and we thought we’d go high end for once…

WAITER: Well, you forget that we have costs too! An expensive downtown location; exquisite interior design; silver cutlery; the owner’s new Aston Martin; our Foosball table – hmm?!?

FEMALE DINER: But we didn’t choose to spend money on those things, You did!

WAITER: Ah, but you chose US!  Perhaps next time you will consider not coming to a respected provider of high quality creative output, and instead go to some… some… street-corner taco stand!!


MALE DINER: Say, honey. That’s not a bad idea. After those tiny portions and all that creative wanking, I’m still hungry.

FEMALE DINER: You’re right, a simple taco at a fair price sounds really good right about now.

(they leave)

WAITER: But wait… your bill!!

(gradually losing accent) Come back! We can negotiate!

We have this great Foosball table! Maybe I can let you play….

(he sits down dejected) Ah man. How am I going to pay for my accent lessons now?

(fade to black)


That link again for forwarding:

Again, if anyone wants to make this into a viral video sensation, let me know.

Shop local: is it better to brand from the inside?

A recent Twitter friend of mine, ask David Olinger, who is the Manager of Marketing and Communications at the small Alberta City of Grande Prairie (population 50,000) has just announced the winning bidder for a branding project for Grande Prairie: a company from Seattle that specializes in tourism destination branding Great Destination Strategies . Was there great rejoicing in Grande Prairie? Um. Not exactly.

Grande Prairie 2

The response:

This was the grumpy and YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) response to the project from the editor of the local newspaper The Daily Herald Tribune:

FULL EDITORIAL HERE: Shop local doesn’t always apply to city

A few quotes to give you the gist:

The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” can sometimes be even more important when it comes to picking just one image that is supposed to identify an entire community. Such is the challenge the City of Grande Prairie finds itself in right now as it embarks on a new “branding” campaign.

So with such a sensitive job one would think it would be important to consult with people from this region, lifelong residents and newcomers alike. But instead, Grande Prairie’s brand will be made in the U.S.A. in some Seattle offices 1,304 km away.

Will an American company know who Alexander Forbes was? Will they know what the Stompede is? … Will they know how to spell Muskoseepi without having to look it up everyday?

The Muskoseepi dilemma

Now, without knowing anything about the company in question or very much about Grande Prairie (I thought it was in South-Eastern Alberta, not North-Western), and certainly having no clue what a “Muskoseepi” is (?) this debate raises an interesting question for brand managers everywhere:

Is branding better done by insiders (people who live, breathe, and bleed the brand every day), or by outsiders (people who come in “cold” and learn about the brand)?

I’ll let you think about that for a moment.
[pause, soft music plays]

The answer:

My own take on this: neither one. You need both insiders and outsiders for a great branding campaign to succeed.

The insiders:

The process and outcome have to be driven and owned by insiders – and particularly by leaders with enough 1) power (and courage) to make the big changes that a whole-brand approach will require, and 2) humility to truly listen to the voices of outsiders (by which I mean customers). If the insiders abdicate this responsibility, the brand will be defined by outsiders, and not necessarily with the best intentions or proper perspective.

The outsiders:

Because a brand is a promise that is actually owned by its customers, successful branding can’t ever be an internal exercise only. Otherwise it’s just an exercise at best (like an orchestra rehearsing without an audience), a time-wasting navel-gazing as middle ground (executive retreat anyone?), or at worst, a spectacular public blunder (like Pizza The Hut or last week’s Syfy debacle).

That’s not to say you need to hire an expensive American firm to do your work for you. A sensibly priced Canadian firm would be better, but even that isn’t strictly necessary. This role could be played by your Board of Directors or a panel of advisors, or if you have a really active customer base, include some real customers in the process.

The most important things are 1) to make sure somebody at the table is speaking for the customers. That is, they give themselves permission to challenge you, ask “dumb outsider” questions, and maybe even tell you that your customers don’t care about things you hold very dear (e.g. Is the “Stompede” really that important? Really?), and 2) to make sure somebody on the “insider” side of the table is listening.

Bon Courage Grande Prairie!