Years ago, one of my first real assignments in advertising was as the Account Executive on Jell-O Pudding at Y&R New York.

I went to meet the client for the first time that summer and was surprised at all the varieties of pudding that they made.  I hadn’t tried very many of them, so I casually asked if they could send us samples of all the products.

A week or so later, at my office in Y&R New York, a fellow from office services came in to see me and asked me what I wanted to do with the pallet load of product that was delivered.  I had no idea what he meant, so I went to investigate.

Sure enough, the kind folks at General Foods had sent me a sample of each SKU of their pudding product line.  But since they couldn’t order individual boxes from their warehouse, they sent me a case of each SKU.

That meant a case of each flavour, each size of cooked pudding, instant pudding, tapioca pudding, custards, cream pies, canned pudding cups, parfaits and so on and so on.  All in all a cube of product about 3 feet by 3 feet by four or five feet high.

First we needed to find an empty office with a lock to store the stuff.  Which we did, but office services was none too happy to give up valuable Manhattan office space for a load of pudding.

Great!  Now I could try as many types of pudding as I wanted.  We could also test recipes in our agency kitchens – perhaps surprising today but we did have three or four home economists on staff in test kitchens because so many print ads featured recipes.

But I was a villain to office services because the pudding was taking up an extra office. Although I was trying quite a few different kinds of pudding, you can only eat so much of the stuff before your stomach feels like you swallowed a shotput.

As the months rolled past, I was getting more and more frequent requests to “get the damn product out of the office.”  Something had to give.

Jell-O Pudding was hardly a plum assignment at that time; it was a few months before the Bill Cosby advertising hit.  It was a tired, low budget brand that had been around for eons.  It was difficult to get people to work on the business in a large agency where everyone works on so many more exciting accounts with big budgets.  Jell-O Pudding barely got the attention we needed.

I called on a good friend for help. Bob Sayles wanted to work in art direction and production and together we came up with an idea to solve both problems.

Bob designed a Christmas card saying “Have a Merry Christmas… Pudding on us!” written in Christmas lights.  We got our production department to print off about a 100 cards.

We put packages together with a card and half a dozen different boxes of pudding for each of the people who was assigned to work on the account in each of the many departments, from network scheduling, to talent, to media buying, to billing, to art files, to budget control, market research and on and on as only a huge agency could muster.  And off we went around the office after work delivering little packages of Christmas cheer to each person’s desk.

It was amazing!

Most people in these position NEVER got anything free and NEVER saw any of our clients’ products.  They were thrilled at being thanked for their efforts.

Soon we were getting more than our share of attention for our little brand.  And we emptied the extra office to boot.

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