Dialing for Dollars

I received a telephone call one afternoon from a photographer’s rep. It was the 80’s. I was a Creative Director. Few of us used answering machines. Voice mail was yet to become common place. There were switchboard operators. I had a secretary whose job description included screening telephone calls. I was expecting a call from my wife. My secretary was on her lunch hour. I answered my own telephone.

“Ian Summers,” I said.

“Um. Um. Um!” She stammered. “This is Lucy Arnez.” (Not her real name.) I think she expected a gate keeper.

“How may I help you, Lucy?”

“I represent Jack Spratt (Not his real name either.). A photographer from Teaneck. And we were wondering whether you were the person who buys photography.”

“What kind of work does Jack do?” I asked politely.

“A little this and a little that. Honey. We sent you a post-cawd a few weeks ago. I think we could make you look good. You and Jack could make some magic together.”

My jaw dropped.

“Whoops. Uma. Uma. Uma. I lost my place. Whom did you say I was calling?” She asked. I detected no embarrassment.

She lost her place on her list. I thanked her for calling. I vowed never to answer my own telephone again.

Lucy was new to the business. A former model without any sales training. Her photographer was pressing her for results. He referred her to The Creative Black Book’s directory of advertising agencies. He told her to start making cold calls. She knew nothing about her prospects. She was dialing for dollars!

It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Well then, how does a photographer or rep know whom to call. That is a function of marketing — provide bona fide leads for the sales force.

Around the same time, I met a photographer who was also a dowser. Now I am not disparaging dowsing. Nor am I recommending dowsing as a prospect divination tool. However, imagine buying a list of art directors from one of the list brokers and using a pendulum to decide who your best prospects may be. Don’t know what dowsing is? Here is a definition as found in Wikipedia.

Dowsing, sometimes called divining or water witching, refers to practices said to enable one to detect hidden water, metals, gemstones or other objects, usually obstructed by land or sometimes located on a map. Most commonly, detection is made through the movement or vibrations of an apparatus, such as a Y-shaped twig, an L-shaped rod, or a pendulum. Some practitioners claim to need no apparatus at all.

While scientific evidence hasn’t been found confirming dowsing’s efficacy, some researchers believe there is evidence to support it, and many people continue to believe that it works.

Okay. I’m having a little fun with you. Dowsing for Dollars is about as productive as Dialing for Dollars. I know. I know. A few of you continue to make cold calls and they do work on rare occasions.