Shared Tales Of Corporate Oppression

Max Barry, who spent the best years of his life in the bowels of Hewlett-Packard and now writes thinly-veiled fictional accounts of it. His latest novel is Company. He works from home, but enforces a strict dress policy, requires that his desk be kept tidy at all times, and asks that he limit personal calls to less than two minutes.
Barry also has a web site where people can post ridiculous but true tales of Corporate Oppression. Here’s one:

I work in an advertising agency, which essentially means that I can go drinking during the day and write it off as “research”. A while ago we were pitching a critical campiagn to a BIG client, the biggest client this agency had. Most of our jobs depended upon keeping these guys happy.
So we were talking them through the boring direct mail part of the campaign when we came to the envelope colour. We had recommended orange… they decided that they liked green. We politely explained that the envelope was orange to ensure consistency with all the other elements of the campaign. They insisted that they wanted a green envelope.
Normally we’d stress why orange was important, but in the interests of keeping the client happy, we’d let them get their way. But something strange happened this time….this evolved from a simple debate to a fully fledged argument. Senior art directors presented their case, the creative director spent the next 48 hours in envelope meetings (at $300/hr!), the MD stepped in. All us lowly suits were made to work 20 hour days piecing together all the orange collateral we could collect from the past two years’ worth of campaigns. Finally the agency paid for a shrink, who specialised in colour symbolism to present the case for The Orange Envelope.
Eventually we reached a compromise: green outside and orange inside. The client got what they wanted, and we charged them an extra $12,800 in head hours, so the whole thing was worth it.

[via Jack Cheng]

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Awesome.