Scary story 1
They were looking for a big e-commerce site, which would have given us the opportunity to show how well our team was aligned with a back-end web dev company that our holding company had just acquired. The prospect client threw out a budget that was astronomical -- three or four times the cost of any previous web project we had done. We jumped at the chance and signed a contract within three days of the initial inquiry.
Finally, the agency found someone in the account team who could deal with the evil and bile, and the project got on track. A week or so in, the A/P team first sounded the alarm that the initial payment had never been received. There followed several weeks of "it's in the mail," "we have record of it being signed for," and "how dare you ask me about this again."
Scary story 2
We got started on the project before all of the terms of the contract were agreed to, but with a payment already made by the client to cover the costs of early development. Fortunately, the copywriter had worked on supplements before, and was aware that the FTC has strict rules on what can be said -- and not said -- about supplements.
Soon after, the individual client was fired from the company. Turns out that the company as unaware of what this marketer was trying to do until the agency's refusal to run the ads.
Scary story 3
I once worked on an account that asked us to run DR-focused banners on ultra-elite pubs -- sites with CPMs $30 or more. We explained that this was unlikely to deliver great DR metrics, but the client persisted. The idea was to enhance the brand image of the service while also delivering some sales. And besides, how do we know it wouldn't work? When the first performance reports came in, it quickly became apparent that more efficient audience-based buys were far more effective and that brand goals -- which weren't even being measured -- weren't serious considerations for the client. They were wants not needs.
Scary story 4
Our people would be more energized and do better work if they actually knew the people they present to on conference calls. Issues and problems arise because the people on both sides are disembodied voices to one another.
Well, the contract indicates that the client pays for travel. So you may find it penny wise and pound foolish for the agency not to spring for the tickets. But there is a principle at stake. And when you start making exceptions to procurement-driven contracts, the slope gets awfully slick awfully fast.