March 14, 2016

The Amazing Tale Of Bill Grizack

Bill Grizack is an advertising strategist. But he's not just any advertising strategist. This guy is special. According to AgencySpy:
"Despite being indicted late last year by the State of North Carolina and intentionally defrauding at least three different agencies, Grizack continued to gain employment as a senior strategist working on legitimate pieces of business like AT&T and remained employed almost literally until the very moment the news of his guilty plea broke last week."
Here are some of the scams Grizack is alleged to have run on agencies over the past few years:
  • He convinced an agency that he had landed $269 million in client contracts and on that basis they made him a partner and hired dozens of people.
  • At more than one agency he faked contracts with large, imaginary accounts -- big accounts like Coca-Cola, Brown-Forman and McDonald's.
  • Up until recently, he apparently was working at three San Francisco agencies at the same time without anyone knowing it.
The incredible story of Grizack first appeared in the Winston-Salem (NC) Journal and has been nicely followed-up by Patrick Coffee of AgencySpy.

Part of this story is understandable. It is very difficult to get accurate information these days on people you are hiring. References are mostly worthless. Having been an agency ceo, I know that every lawyer tells every agency head not to provide reference information. Providing any kind of comments on a former employee opens you up to all kinds of legal mischief.

But once the agencies hired him, how did they accept his stories of having landed clients that they never saw? 

According to one story, one of the three jobs Grizack held simultaneously in SF was at Interbrand (owned by Omnicom) where he was senior director of strategy on the real AT&T account.

I've said a lot of nasty things about ad strategists over the years (like here and here). I'm sure there are some brilliant ones.

But this guy's story reinforces every skeptic's worst suspicions.

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