Chiat brushes aside such criticism. "Most of the people who say that kind of stuff do very tired, boring and uninspired advertising," he said. "Agencies that do ordinary work tend to keep their accounts much longer."
There is a certain mystique to Chiat/Day. If it were a politician, the name would probably be Kennedy. And were it a state--or perhaps even a state of mind--it could only be called California. It is an agency that fascinates everyone.
But the agency's critical flaws are as plain as the San Andreas fault. And these self-destructive flaws--primarily in not adequately servicing clients--have cost the firm many of its best-known customers. "The agency doesn't always hear what the client is saying," said one former client who asked not to be named.
Fox Broadcasting wanted immediate results when its network programming premiered in April, so it took its $15-million account to Chiat/Day. But within six months, the agency lost the account, Fox executives say, because of poor administrative support. "They were not able to keep up with the constantly changing logistical demands we were placing on them," said one Fox executive who also asked not to be identified.
Snazzy Porsche Ads
To its credit, Chiat/Day has done some very respectable automobile advertising. It was the agency that introduced Honda into the U.S. in 1969, and it created some snazzy advertising for Porsche until it resigned the $10-million account a few weeks ago. "It was an agency you could leave alone," said Gerhard Blendstrup, vice president of marketing at Porsche. "We just supplied them with the same data that we had and let them go."
Nissan's account, however, is 15 times larger. And no one expects Nissan to give its new ad firm free wheel. "The picture of Chiat/Day suddenly changes a lot," Bouchez said. "It will become less like a family and more like a big, big company."
"Getting Nissan is like getting the Pentagon for a client," said Patrick Sherwood, a former vice president and management supervisor at Chiat/Day who recently left to take on a similar post at the San Francisco office of the ad firm Foote, Cone & Belding. "The agency will be dealing with issues that it's never dealt with before."
Traditionally, it is the ad agencies that adjust to their client's whims. "But in this case," said Mowery, "Nissan will have to go through as much re-adaptation as Chiat/Day."