In 1943, the Soviet army outnumbered the German army about three to one.
The Russians were sweeping everything before them.
They were led by the unbeaten Field Marshall Zhukov.
They smashed their way towards Kharkov.
Kharkov was held by the Germans under Field Marshall Manstein.
Manstein had masterminded the blitzkrieg, conquered Europe and beaten the French and British.
Hitler told Manstein he must hold Kharkov at all costs.
Manstein disagreed, he wanted to use the tactic every football fan knows: the counter-attack.
He wanted to abandon Kharkov and lure Zhukov, to follow him.
Then, when Zhukov had outrun his supply-line, Manstein would attack from behind.
He would hit Zhukov where he was weakest, then destroy his forces.
Hitler refused, he said Manstein must not retreat a step, he must fight to the death.
Manstein was the most gifted general in the German army.
The highest rank Hitler had ever achieved was corporal.
But, because Hitler was now Fuhrer, he outranked Manstein.
He decided he knew all about military tactics and the General must follow his orders.
But Manstein didn’t follow his orders, he retreated.
Field Marshal Zhukov chased him, as he knew he would.
After 100 miles, Manstein stopped and his troops circled back and cut Zhukov’s supply line.
Without food or ammunition, the Russian soldiers couldn’t fight.
Manstein destroyed three Russian armies, and three more armies retreated in chaos.
Then Manstein went back and recaptured Kharkov.
By the end of his counter-attack there were 90,000 Russians dead and wounded plus countless prisoners.
600 Russian tanks and 1,200 artillery pieces had been destroyed.
Field Marshal Zhukov had been beaten for the first time.
But Manstein had argued with Hitler, gone against his wishes and that made him furious.
Hitler didn’t like having his authority challenged, whatever the reason.
Although he had been a corporal in the army he now outranked all his generals.
Which meant that all his generals should just shut up and listen.
The next year Hitler fired Manstein, the General who beat the great Field Marshal Zhukov.
So Manstein could do nothing, while the Russians destroyed all the German armies.
The armies now led by the Generals who agreed to whatever Hitler wanted.
After the war was over, Manstein was at first imprisoned by the allies then released.
The West needed him.
The Cold War had begun and the Soviets had much larger forces than NATO did.
They needed help from the man who knew how to beat bigger Russian armies.
And Manstein became senior adviser to NATO on how a smaller, smarter army could beat a much bigger one.
NATO adopted and taught Manstein’s tactics in their planning.
NATO learned what Hitler didn’t, that it’s smart to use a man for what he’s good at.
It reminds me of the client/supplier relationship that exists in our business.
The most junior person on the client side outranks the most senior person on the agency side.
The agency can be dismissed at any time, simply because the client doesn’t like them.
So keeping the client happy becomes the whole job of the agency.
Which changes the focus for the advertising.
Because the consumer is no longer the target market, the client is.