Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Project Creep

We have a phrase we use at ad agencies: "Project creep." It's when you think you understand the parameters of a project, establish a budget accordingly, and then as time goes by, the project ... well ... creeps. It grows; it morphs; it evolves; it changes.

And never in the agency's favor.

So, you think you're designing a six-page brochure for a software client. Then, halfway through, they remember to tell you that the center page is actually a centerfold, meaning there are four extra pages. Or a healthcare client neglects to inform you that the flyer you're writing has to be translated into Spanish, Mandarin and Creole. Or a financial services client reminds you that there need to be eight versions of that direct mail piece and they're sure they mentioned it at some point to someone. But, in all of the cases above, the budgets and schedules remain the same.  

This is what we call "project creep."

In truth, I've experienced a lot less "project creep" since founding my own agency thirteen years ago. There are so few of us and we work so closely with each client that less creeps through the cracks. 

But, I was reminded of "project creep" the other day.

We have a deal with our seventeen-year-old daughter. She has a handful of favorite bands and loves going to concerts, many of which are on school nights. She would, of course, absolutely die, if she missed Magic Man or Walk the Moon or Panic at the Disco, so we've agreed that she can go to their concerts. Provided:

- All homework is completed
- She and her friends pay for their own tickets and "merch" (band swag they sell at the venue)
- She maintains her Honor Roll GPA
- She gives us not one iota of grief getting up the next morning

Going to concerts used to mean that we or some other parents took the teens into town or picked them up afterwards (and there were times when we were somehow on duty both directions, wtf?). But now, with their freshly minted licenses in hand, the kids drive themselves. Not all the way into Boston (I've been driving 25 years and I find parking there daunting), but to the nearest public transportation.

And, that, my friends, is where the recent "creep" crept in.

We had agreed that she could see some band she loves at the House of Blues. It was actually a weekend gig, so it should have been simpler than usual. 

Mais non.

The day before the show, we suddenly learned that our daughter and her BFF planned to leave the house at 4:45 am so they could catch the very first train into town at 5:20 am so they could be on line outside the House of Blues by 6:00 am.

As you've probably guessed, the concert did not start at 6:00 am. Or any time near it.

The reason for the pre-dawn departure was that the first two people in line with disposable cameras were going to win a once-in-a-lifetime prize. The band's official photographer was going to take those cameras backstage and snap all kinds of once-in-a-lifetime candids of the band before, during and after their set. The only way our girls could win this once-in-a-lifetime contest was if they guaranteed their place at the very head of the line, so of course they had to be there as early as humanly possible.

It was, after all, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In a "project creep" sort of way.

We said, "No."

"But you said I could go!" she protested. "You knew about it! And I always go early and stand on line!"

She had a point. We did, indeed, say she could go (to the concert). We did, indeed,  know about it (the concert). And she did, indeed, always go early and stand in line — early like four hours before (the concert). 

Not EARLY like 6:00 am.

Spring comes late here and it would still be fairly dark when they arrived at their not-yet-open destination. I personally wouldn't want to be on Boston's Landsdowne Street at 6:00 am. Lined with clubs and bars, and across the street from Fenway Park, it's not exactly the safest area and certainly wouldn't be very populated on a Saturday at ohmigod-o'clock.

As you can imagine, if you are the lucky parent of a teen whose plans are threatened to be thwarted, much drama ensued.

I don't know if I was particularly tired or she wore me down or I had a flashback to my own teens when I pretty much owned Manhattan and didn't yet fear death. At any rate, we finally came to a compromise. She could go, as planned, but I expected a check-in text every half hour. No ifs, ands or buts.

"Or," I told her, finger in her face, "I will drive into town and hunt you down and drag you out of that line and home!" For good measure, I added, "And you will never never ever go to another concert again!"

How she kept from laughing is beyond me, but she readily agreed.

True to her word, she did text me every 30 minutes on the dot. They were informative and affectionate messages:

we're here


still here

Eventually, I did get a more effusive message letting me know that they had won the contest and their cameras were now in the hands of the photographer. Oh, and they met the band (again) and she got a drumstick (again). Then, I got an actual call (gasp!) to let me know that her battery was dying but they were going to charge her phone behind the bar and she wouldn't be able to text again until after the show. But she would, she promised, and "thank you soooooooo much" for letting them do this.

My husband and I had a nice dinner, watched an episode of Mr. Selfridge, and eventually went to bed. But, I'm a mother, so I didn't fall asleep until I heard the gate ... 

and my daughter creeping in.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at  

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