calling out vml

Kansas City-based interactive agency VML has come in for a lot of fire here on The Daily (Ad) Biz despite Y&R holding official Least Favored Agency status.


It all started so well, with kudos to the agency for the nicely designed Snapple website. But then the readers weighed in and VML got raked over the coals for taking a three quarters of a million dollar bath on site production.

And then more comments came in calling out VML staffers by name and slamming the account and creative team that works on the Cadbury Schweppes business.

The hits keep coming. Cadbury Schweppes launched a new product line, A&W and Sunkist Floats, to much fanfare, but with no website. No website even though the press release pointed people to it.

Again, the word is that the boys (and girls) at VML bear much, if not all, of the responsibility for yet another big error:

I am an employee of the carbonated side of Cadbury Schweppes, although I don’t work directly with VML, I can say that this is another VML screw up. I work in very close proximity to the A&W (and other carbonated drink) managers in Plano, TX. Needless to say, they are pretty fed up with VML’s attitude, processes and account management.

Due to VML’s “holier than thou” attitude towards Cadbury’s agency partners, nobody wants to deal with them. – so it’s bad communication all the way around and a press release goes out without VML’s input and you get what you have here. A half-assed lunder construction page thrown up to cover VML’s slow asses.

Let’s just hope that that VML comes through on the website, but rumblings within the office down here in good ‘ol Texas is that the website doesn’t hit the mark. Of all the concepts presented, this was the only “usable” one that came close. Due to budgets, VML wouldn’t budge on any redo and they had to make this one work. People aren’t to happy about it either.

2008 will be interesting for the Cadbury and VML relationship.

Coupled with an email from a loyal tipster that alleges that the first round concepts from VML were so bad that the internal interactive team did not even show them to anyone else and just told VML to actually read the brief and have another go, 2008 is going to be very interesting indeed.

I can’t wait.


25 responses to “calling out vml

  1. The flack VML is catching here is long overdue. I have been both an employee and then a client of VML and let me tell you, that is one effed-up joint. VML’s modus operandi is thus: “Attach as many billable employees to a project as possible. Get the job done ASAP. Overbill the client. Repeat immediately.” Clients and prospective clients should understand that there is absolutely no value placed on quality, which actually is lucky for the employees because the absurd pace prohibits quality and ensures errors and fuck-ups in every department. In fact, the most important job skill for a VML employee to have is the ability to deflect blame and get others to clean up one’s own messes. Speaking of pace, this is true: I have seen job orders/creative briefs at VML on which the project’s due date PRE-DATES the writing of the brief. They literally promise their clients they’ll have it done yesterday! There are some savvy clients, as earlier posts on this blog prove. But there are many others who aren’t — I don’t know if these VML clients aren’t aware, don’t care, or don’t understand how dysfunctional their interactive agency is. But with VML, they’re getting order-takers, not strategic leaders. And they’re probably being double-billed for it.

  2. Another Former VMLer

    This is pretty minor compared to the things I saw happen when I was with VML. Spineless CDs who won’t help their creatives do good work, piss-poor account management and straight up fraudulent billing combine to create what many affectionately refer to as “The Pit of Dispair”. Sure, they throw a good party, but if you want that big bonus at the end of the year and that promotion to Senior Associate Creative Director, you had better be billing 70+ hours a week wether you actually did the work or not.

  3. Bring Back Ligibel!!!!!

  4. I find it very amusing that over the last few weeks we have taken the word from this “inside tipster” as gospel. The funny part about all of this is that our “tipster” is none other than a former VMLer who was fired because he had no understanding of the business or the technology surrounding it. He was nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing… Or in this case a Ralph Lauren button up.

    The best part about all of these post regarding the lack of management/creativity at VMl comes from his very knowledge of the projects that HE managed. Hence the reason he no longer works at VML. Was there issues on these projects? Sure, but what project doesn’t have it’s issues. Did he blow them out of proportion? Absolutely. You see he is a very disgruntled former employee who blames his firing on everyone except the person that looks back at him in the mirror everyday. Which falls in line with his thinking ( “skill for a VML employee to have is the ability to deflect blame and get others to clean up one’s own messes.”)

    Unfortunately we are still cleaning up his.

  5. Stop, Simply Amused, just fucking stop. You are speaking out of school. Yeah, the OP is probably a giant piece of shit, but sweety, that’s par for the fucking course at that “agency.” Take what he has said and couple it with what the commenters have said, strip out the commentary. True. All true. Go ahead, deny any of it.

    That god-forsaken, sad, place is fucked up 16 ways to the weekend. Don’t have a visual? Picture a Taiwanese sweat shop, mix it with patients from an insane asylum, and have the Nazi’s, underachieving, drop out kids run it. Don’t waste your time attacking the OP’s character, that’s not the fucking point. The point is that that place is a vapid wasteland of crap. Don’t lose sight of what’s really being discussed here. Disgruntled employee? Yeah, sure. So I am I. Who isn’t. Name one person that works for or has worked for that company that isn’t disgruntled. And while you’re at it, name another agency that has had so many people, when fired, that say, “Thank you.”

    “What project doesn’t have issues?” Are you fucking kidding me? At how many agencies have you worked, cupcake? How long have you been drinking the Kool Aid? At VML, every project is riddled with issues. And you want to know something, despite what your bosses tell you, that’s not the way it works.

    Oh, and you aren’t cleaning up his messes, it’ll be years before you get to those, the messes inflicted upon that company by senior management on a daily basis far outweigh any of his.

  6. That was pretty funny. I mean, funny, in a way that makes me feel bad for you, Simply Naceous. You lost all credibility when you started using words like “sweety, Nazi and cupcake. No to mention the fact that you tragically misspelled nauseous. Who are you anyway? If what you’re saying is true, why are you hiding your identity? If you have good information, present it like an adult in a manner that requires thought. Ya know?

    If you worked at VML, you’ll who I am. Gramke

  7. Well, Gramke. I’m not going to get in a fight with you because I’m your friend and I’m definitely not who you think I am. And I’m not MS. But I am going to respond to your post.

    “You lost all credibility when you started using words like “sweety, Nazi and cupcake.” Really? No, not really. You and Simply Amused are both still missing the point. The topic has nothing to do with who is doing the talking and everything to do with what is being talked about. VML is a hateful, toxic place. Period. You are treading on shaky territory here. By staking your position in the way you have, you are defending VML, not the person you think Simply Amused is. Gramke, you don’t like that place, don’t defend it. Simply Amused hates it too — probably more than any of us. Their comment was attacking the OP of the thread, I was merely trying to get back on topic. Again, lost credibility? Hardly. Take out those words that you hate so much and point still stands.

    “No to mention the fact that you tragically misspelled nauseous.” What a softball. It’s almost too easy to point out that you’ve tragically misspelled “not.” My excuse, I was pretty tipsy. If anything makes me lose credibility, it’s that.

    Like I said, Gramke, I’m not going to get into this with you. In fact I like you. A lot. This isn’t about you. It’s about that company that strips away the dignity of every sole that crosses their threshold.

    It’s funny, really. This thread has turned into a microcosm of VML itself. A work environment so toxic and so fraught with unnecessary pressure that grown adults, who were once close friends are shouting at each other. It’s sad.

  8. Oh hell. I thought when you referred to “OP” you meant Ocean Pacific. I like you a lot too, even though I don’t really know who you are. In fact, I think I’m in love with you. Wait, before I commit to that last statement, maybe I should see your picture. You know, I have standards and everything.

  9. Wow……former employees venting. Jeez guys and gals….I hope you realize it only makes you look pretty petty. And I bet your current employers love the fact that you will trash anyone anywhere. Gotta love that touch of class.

  10. OK. You win. Anyone who would think to use Antediluvian is my mental superior. My fun is done here.

    Over and OUT.

  11. Well, if only we were as holy as thou, Antediluvian. You are a very special kind of person. What kind of person are you, anyway. Let’s see. You are either someone who has never worked at VML and thusly have no earthly clue what you are talking about. Or you are someone who does work at VML and feel compelled to defend your company out of shear terror that you will be fired if you don’t. Or maybe you work there and you actually like it. In which case enjoy your life — and your free time.

    Touch of class? Nice. Lurk moar.

  12. If this the MS I think it is, be careful not to bite the hand that fed you… You would be nowhere without VML or its senior leadership.

    Burned bridges crash hard, good luck spinning your fake credentials.

  13. Okay, okay. This is the most interesting post I have read in weeks. First of all, VML is about the most fucked up place that still has clients believing in them. I worked there for three years and watched the slow decline once the current management set was put into place. So tell me this, why has 4 Senior Partners left in the last 3 months? Why is Burger King getting ready to walk out? Wake up VML, you got problems and firing one person that caused it all is a huge smoke and mirror play. If you knew what was good for the company you would go in fire half the creative staff and all the account management.

    As far as burned bridges go, speak for yourself. Look at all the clients that VML has driven out the door due to cost and management issues. Most of the product VML produces nowadays can be bought of a shelf as a content management software tool. Don’t you realize that you are a dying breed? Get it together or you will be gone yourself.

    I remember VML being a good company that really cared about its employees and clients. I feel sorry for the place and the few people there that want to do good work, but can’t because of the monsters in the closet. What happened?

  14. Wow. This is some thread.

    Here’s the deal. Most of us that have been there get it. VML is a dreadful place. There are some who would like to hide behind a curtain of moral supremacy and say that this is all just measly, disgruntled company bashing. Truth be told, most people I know — including myself — have worked at several other agencies. And the interesting thing is no one bad mouths any place in the way they bad mouth VML. I’m not talking about the typical oh-I-sure-didn’t-like-it-there type of stuff. I’m talking about the deep, venomous, blood boiling, you-took-a-piece-of-my-soul type stuff. If you’ve worked there for any amount of time, you know what I mean. As far as the one commenter’s attack on that MS person, I don’t know what it is exactly that makes him/her a hack but odds are they don’t actually owe VML a thing. No one really does. VML takes and takes and takes so much from their employees, vendors and clients with out giving anything back that at the end of it all, there will be hell to pay.

  15. “Burned bridges crash hard.”

    You know what else was crashing hard? The $250,000 Snapple website that started this thread.

  16. Pingback: the vml tempest in a teacup « the daily (ad) biz

  17. heres the thing – anyone who worked there knows that 1) its a sweatshop. 2) the old management saw a way to cash out, but hated the environment, so they hauled and 3) the NEWish (not so new anymore) management is scary.

    that said, they are doing something right – the growth has been phenom. (another thing is for sure – this thread is REALLY PISSING ‘EM OFF!!!)

  18. MS, you want to step into the Octagon?

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  20. Still Snickering after all this time


  21. WOW! How funny this thread forsaw the future. Looks like the employees or employee got the last laugh. Good for him/her/them. 🙂

  22. Vanderhoot:

    Consider me an interested party… Can you go into detail about what all’s been shaken up at VML? I’ve been dealing with them as of late (the past three months or so) and the whole place just seems like a convoluted clusterfuck.

    My impression is, nobody there really knows where they are going.

  23. I have NEVER worked with a more unorganized and wasteful agency. This agency is run by uneducated and caddy individuals. They just don’t know what they are doing. Sad.

  24. What would you say to a person a year later about VML? It is so bad that I should not work there?

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