I have been reading with amazement the Papa John’s debacle and the flameout of its founder John Schnatter. By all accounts, his words were toxic, offensive and deserving of condemnation and his termination.
Where this story becomes goofy is the next phase, over whether the agency involved threatened or even tried to extort money from him and the company, as he claimed yesterday. But kudos to the agency for resigning the business. In today’s day and age it takes guts to look a client in the eye, especially one that according to media reports stilled owed you $1.3 million, and tell them good bye. We have taken that step twice in our 15 years in business.
The first time we resigned an account was when we were told that the managing director of an educational institution was planning on pleading guilty to fraud for crime committed prior to his joining the school. We objected to the fact that the school wanted us to publicly defend his actions and they planned on keeping him in that role, despite the fact that he was going to jail for two years. In a discussion with its chairman, I asked how the school, in good conscience, could teach values of honesty, when one of its top professionals was admitting to fraud and the school was keeping that person on the payroll? I explained it might be another matter if they dismissed or put him on leave while he served his time, but then rehired him, suggesting you could at least argue he had paid his debt and that teaching the lesson of forgiveness and giving people another chance is also an important lesson.
The second instance occurred with a celebrity client who was abusive to our staff. The first time he berated a staff member in front of the media, he later apologized for being under pressure and said it would not happen again. Well, two weeks later, same thing happened with two other staffers, this time on the phone. By the way, our team had gotten him major press during both situations, so it had nothing to do with quality of the work, but rather the values of that former client.
However, in neither case did we identify the client, nor publicize the action. Both were high profile clients that could have garnered this agency publicity. We did the right thing, but it would have served no purpose to take this story outside a small group of people involved. Where I part company with Laundry Service is in airing its dirty laundry in public.