At the recent Advertising Hall of Fame event honoring a major Pitch client, I spent some quality time with three other leaders of agencies that are also on the brand’s roster. We compete against each other on a monthly basis, often pitching the brand campaigns for some of the most high-profile and important media buys of the year.
Reviews. RFPs. Rosters. Search consultants. Testing. Hiring. Poaching. Best Places to Work. A-Lists. Our industry has a foundation of competition that at its core is cutthroat. But as my casual and even friendly meet up with colleagues made abundantly clear, it doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way.
And here are several reasons why.
It doesn’t make the slightest difference if we hate or love each other. Our intelligence, passion and creativity are the reasons why a client chooses our work. But we all know that’s not where the buck stops. There are chains of stakeholders who weigh in, often blind to the people behind the work. Many times consumers have their say by way of testing, altering and changing work they had no idea was even in progress. So focusing our energy on “beating the others” is almost always a waste. The barriers in our way rest in our own creativity and the process we’re all up against. We can’t control the outcome by hating on the other agencies invited to the party. So we might as well love each other.
We create the weather. This isn’t our world forever. Those of us that are lucky have younger, smarter people who will take the helm tomorrow. Let’s not just set an example of leadership inside our four walls, let’s be the winds of change in our industry and show them that winning and good sportsmanship are not mutually exclusive ideas. Let’s seek each other out. Let’s talk about the trials and tribulations of agency leadership life, of clients and billings and parent companies and the new generation. Some of my most productive time is spent having chats with the agency leaders I now call my friends.
These guys get me, sometimes even more than my spouse. We are literally living the same life. The fastest connection I have made with people as an adult is when they do what I do and can relate intimately with emoji-like communication. A sigh, a laugh, an eye roll. Leaders of other agencies are some of the hardest working, passionate people in any business. I feel honored to be a part of this community and truly and honestly look forward to the brief but quality time I have with them.
Together we can diffuse some of the bombs. We don’t have to share our literal work. But we can share our experience. As a group we share a common goal of acting in the best interest of the client – collectively we have the ability to do better work. Of course we all want to win individually, but that’s the end result, not the path. We can diffuse client issues one-by-one through shared experiences and points of view. We can help negotiate for better processes, financial arrangements, and creative efficiencies if we respect each other.
We can learn something that makes all of our work better, or at the very least least makes us better leaders. The worst part of any day is getting unsolicited advice from someone who doesn’t have a clue about the fickle and ever-changing world of advertising. Nothing makes me want to walk away from conversation more than an uninformed comment starting with “you should just tell the client…” I wish there were more forums for us to seek advice from our comrades in arms. To shoot the shit. To learn. To avoid the mistakes and pitfalls the other may have made. To celebrate each other. Our industry has found a platform for talking shit, just look at all the nasty trolls in comments section in our trade pubs. Why not find a platform for support, where we can bind together and make our whole world better. Or at least catch a drink together, have a really enjoyable conversation, and maybe laugh about the issues that bug us all.
At the end of the day we can only make the whole process shittier by walking past each other in our client’s hallway pretending we don’t see each other and know what’s up, or worse, judge them. Let’s face it, no one can empathize and relate to us better than the talented people who work at “competing” agencies. They’re us, under a different banner. Don’t be a big jerk. Be a big person. Make a friend. Or at least shake their hands, wish them luck, and believe that your own talent will prevail.
Pitch clients include Burger King, Bonefish Grill, Konami and XBox. Many of the senior management are women. Pitch is part of the Project Worldwide network.