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The Incredible Story of Bill Grizack
25 Jul 2016

The Incredible Story of Bill Grizack

29201276_b6e47327f4_mSometimes you hear about a chain of events and you can’t begin to comprehend how anyone could have gotten away with any of it, or even how someone could have thought about doing such crazy things. That was my reaction when I read the story of Bill Grizack in Adweek.

If you look up William Grizack on LinkedIn, you see self-promotional fluff that is fairly typical of the modern marketing “guru.” To wit:

At The Variable it was my job to invent the future of creative advertising strategy. Working with my partners, I developed the staff and the technology that leveraged Big Data into meaningful creative insights and built a creative team that new how to use those insights to create brilliant work.
Key Clients: Coca-Cola, Brown-Forman, P&G, Suntrust, Hanes, BB&T

OK. You might be rolling your eyes and saying, “Yeah, I’ve seen plenty of things like that on all of the social media platforms before.” Here’s what makes this particular case interesting though. That whole “key clients” thing where he mentions Coca-Cola and Brown-Forman is a pack of lies.

A Chain Reaction of Lies

Reading the story of  Bill Grizack calls to mind the Mark Twain saying about the value of telling the truth. You don’t have to remember what you said. Grizack went to amazing lengths to build his house of cards, including creating fake email domains so that he could send himself emails that looked like they were coming from higher-ups at Coca-Cola and Brown-Forman. This reminds me of a general I read about in Shelby Foote’s Civil War trilogy. The general also was serving as quartermaster, and he wrote out arguments with himself about what provisions he could get. Someone finally had to get him to stop fighting with himself.

The problem is that sometimes lies can end up harming loads of people in ways you might not even have realized. Grizack’s lies about landing huge contracts with Coca-Cola inspired his agency to bring on several new people, many of whom moved from different parts of the country to take their new jobs. When it became clear that the contracts didn’t really exist and the profit didn’t either, all of those people found themselves without work in a new region of the country with which they were not totally familiar.

But How Can People Fall For That?

When you are operating at a distance from a situation, it’s easy enough to ask, “How could anyone fall for that?” The thing is, Grizack knew how to charm everyone around him. His verbiage about creativity, remaking the agency model, and his own capabilities made everyone believers. Why would they have any reason to question him? The fact is that especially if you deal with someone online, the right words can weigh more heavily than how much truth there actually is behind those words. Just ask Snopes.com.

Give the Adweek article a read and let us know what you think. What can agencies and clients learn from the debacle? We’d love to hear from you.

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/macca/29201276/ via Creative Commons

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