I had one of those days the other day. When you question everything around you, what you are doing, how and why you are doing it. I hear colleagues counting, clients are writing better copy than them, designing better than the best designer, really good at typography. They are good at editing, art direction, casting, directing. If I were superficial (but with all my flaws, superficiality is not one of them), I would be angry. I am angry. It’s getting on my nerves. I come to the agency and I utter curse words (I am not creative when it comes to cursing), listen to sad songs and fantasize about being rich enough to do nothing. When I get bored with not being constructive, I start to analyze and think about things, causes, motives. Why is that so? Holistic: when the arm is amputated, a patch no longer helps.
Why does someone who is not creative by vocation and probably has no great affinity to engage in creative work (unless we count on helping his kid with homework or a recent decoupage course) feel the need to correct things that some of the best professionals in the domestic advertising industry have done. Let’s not make a mess of it, the conclusion is simple (and devastating!) – because they don’t trust us.
The other day, I took my shirts to a dry cleaner. I don’t normally take my shirts there, I didn’t know the woman working there, so I spent 10 minutes explaining how I wanted them to be ironed. “I don’t want creases on the sleeves, I hate when my collar is up, and please do not iron over the print under any circumstances.” Because it is normal to expect that people here will install tiles in your bathroom all wrong, hold their finger on the scales at the flea market, so why should it be different when you order a kilo of campaign. I didn’t trust her, so (logically?!) I took matters (not the iron though) into my own hands and shared a decent number of tips even though I hadn’t ironed more than 5-6 shirts in my life.
And then it dawned on me! I met a bunch of designers doing advertising because they can’t live off the posters for the Groznjan dance radio drama festival, directors who shoot commercials while waiting for their movie to happen (which, by the way, never happens), incompetent-to-make-a-decision creative directors, digital marketing people who do not distinguish likes from communication, wannabe copywriters, copy-paste accounts… Is it possible for clients to think that agencies do not understand their brand and problems at all, but are looking to earn plenty of money with as little work as possible? If they do care, they certainly do it for the sake of rewards, and they don’t care about the client’s problems.
There are several levels of responsibility: personal (according to one’s own needs), responsibility for the work (in order for it to be done well), and responsibility for the relationship. Unfortunately, there is conflict behind every relationship. The inner conflict in each of those sides. The conflict between the need for cooperation and the need for self-integrity. We enter into a business (and any other) relationship to fulfil our own needs/goals – just like our partner. If we build a symmetrical relationship in which both parties have the resources necessary to successfully do the job (client – information / agency – knowledge), we are equally responsible that it works without reduction and one participant. Compromise is not a good solution because being in the middle means that no one got what they really wanted. It may be better, like windshield wipers, to end up on one side and then on the other. And that certainly means showing respect, appreciation, being polite and trusting the other side. If you are reading this and thinking “but my client doesn’t understand what we are doing for them, they have no idea about our business, they do not want to listen to what we are suggesting to them, blah blah blah…”, you may have the wrong client. Not every couple is ideal, nor is every relationship sustainable. You are responsible for finding/building a better one.
I know how we approach business. The effort we put in, the knowledge, the experience, the collaboration with the best people who want to give their best. Is it really always the best? I don’t know. The best it could have been. The moment we click on the first slide of a presentation, I know that it took a lot of thought, plenty of ideas and, not least, heart. I would call it responsibility towards the partner, the job and myself. Responsibility to do well in the job and the relationship you are in. Sometimes the stars are aligned. If responsibility is not the standard, it is clear to me that we have ruined our clients who are suspicious of us, who see us as flea market sellers, not knowing what they are buying or whether we are here to weasel our way through, scam them or help them communicate and do their jobs successfully.
That is why, dear “colleague”, every time you weasel your way through a job, or present a bad solution as a good one and think that you have deceived the client, or even when you betray your own criteria, desires and goals, you have actually deceived everyone who does this job responsibly. Please don’t help us anymore. Thank you.
Illustration: Damir Mazinjanin, Art Director, Señor