Hug your ad agency once in a while. It’s better than you think.

July 23, 2008

I feel so blessed to be part of a vital agency. Hard work getting Euro RSCG Chicago back into respectability but so worth it. Back in ‘04 most people wrote this place off for dead and delighted in kicking the corpse. Gratifying then to be so damn alive.

Let’s talk about gratitude. Lots of people piss and moan about their jobs, and it’s no exception in advertising. The fact that our business features a creative department means the bitching can be awfully creative. All you have to do is go online or read the trades. This agency is done for. That is agency is in trouble. Can we pause from all that…

I recall a group meeting at my former employer, Leo Burnett during a dark period, perhaps just after one of another countless reorganizations. (Beware Reorga, the fiend from upper management!) Anyway, the whole creative department had assembled for a so-called “Town Meeting” to discuss what happened and where we were headed, etc.

After numerous scathing and paranoid remarks from the creative troops, one soldier elected to tell a story. It went, more or less, as follows:

A long time ago a group of farmers gathered under a huge, old and withered tree in the center of a vast plain to escape the noon sun. As they ate lunch the farmers began talking poorly about the old tree.
“What good is this tree,” said one, “it bears no fruit at all?”
“And just try milking it for sap!” bellowed a second man.
“And the wood is too gnarled for chopping,” spoke another.
On and on this went, until lunch was over and they all ventured back into the field and forests to continue working.
That night a terrible storm arose and lightning felled the giant tree, incinerating it.
The next day, when the sun was at its highest, the farmers hiked to the spot where the tree once stood. As the sun beat down upon them, they saw what had happened and what had been taken from them. It was here where they had sought and found shade. It was here they had all communed with one another. It was here they found support, community and relief. Weeping now, they all realized that these things were just as important as fruit and wood and sap. They had the tree for granted. And now it was gone.

While you get you hankies out let me sum up. The point of the story, I felt then, was to remind all the cynics and naysayer just how special a place their agency was. Though she may have fallen on hard times she was not down…and we should all be thankful for that and for all the agency had done for us –including, I might add, allowing everyone to gather under its branches and complain about it!

Food for thought, next time you’re sucking on a Starbucks with your buds, hating on the agency.


7 Responses to “Hug your ad agency once in a while. It’s better than you think.”

  1. Jason Fox said

    Complaining for the sake of complaining is pointless and detrimental to the agency and its people. We all need to vent about the jackassery of advertising once in a while, but consistent cynicism spreads like a cancer.

    Now, I don’t mind someone who quote-unquote complains if they are actually taking action to fix the problem, or doing their job as best they can in spite of the problem. That is, if someone’s doing their darndest to get good work out the door, then vigorously discussing why that’s so difficult a task is okay. Even then, it’s difficult not to sound a whiny wart on the butt of the agency. I know this from experience. Balancing passion with tact is a lesson well-learned.

    But if you really want agency folks to appreciate their jobs (aside from offering money, fame, glory, hookers (for the 20-somethings) or time with their families (30+)), take them on a field trip to any major corporation to witness “Office Space” in action. Or just make them wear khakis and golf shirts (tucked in, of course) for a week.


  2. Ronan Doyle said

    Good point and well put. But moreso, well timed. I just got out of a long and painful meeting for a client that is most certainly broken, made worse by a client/agency relationship that is most certainly broken.

    To avoid stewing in misery, I jumped online to read this blog, Ernie Shenck’s and some others to let my mind wander. This brought me back to life. Or, at least made me sweep that nightmare under the carpet and turn my attention to a client that doesn’t suck… today.

  3. SRP said

    God bless you, Ronan.
    This blog has finally brought some relief to a fellow ad exec!

  4. Suex said

    Just out of curiosity, what happened after the guy told his parable about the old tree? Was there one of those deafening silences followed by more bitching?

  5. David Burn said

    I hear you on not going overboard with unending and non-constructive complaints, but what if your agency isn’t special? What if it truly sucks? It seems to me that criticism, voiced or otherwise, is more than called for in those situations. Although, it pays to remember that even the worst agency is better than the best garbage route (metaphorically speaking).

  6. SRP said

    True, David, true. Your last point is the one I was most trying to make. What I do for a living, even on a bad day, is cooler than just about any other job I can think of. What’s the line about pizza? “Even if it’s bad it’s still pretty good.”

  7. Voice of Reason said

    As my daddy used to say: It beats digging ditches.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: