Are Agencies Staffed By Dumbasses, Or Worse?

I typically stay away from content written by anonymous contributors, but Brian Morrissey at Digiday is prompting “Confessions” from people in the industry, and the one I just read from a technology vendor seems to have merit.

Agencies talk about being makers. Shouldn’t they have this technology in-house?

They can’t do it. It’s the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none thing. Digital marketing is fragmented across mobile and the Web and so on. They can’t be experts in every area. But agencies, especially traditional ones, don’t want to lose business, so they try to portray themselves as experts in all areas. It’s not feasible. Agencies will come to us with ideas that can’t even be done. It shows that the more transparent agencies are, the better it will be for them, the tech vendors and clients.

The contributor also mentions that agency personnel often lack the common courtesy to keep partners informed; that agencies fail to give proper credit; they haggle over scope of work after the fact; and are totally consumed by their desire to serve their client’s whims, instead of “making things” that would actually help said clients grow their business.

Yes, the business is totally messed up (I find that agencies tend to mirror the business practices of their clients). It’s also a hundred other things, because there’s a diversity of operators, some noble and some rotten to the core. But the one thing that stands out for me above is how people in the ad business are scared. Scared to say they don’t know. Scared of losing accounts and their job. Sacred to say NO.

It’s sad, all this fear. And toxic. I say piss on it. If you can’t have a frank discussion with your client, vendor or with your coworkers, then you’re in a sorry state. I’m not suggesting you become a jerk off, I’m suggesting that you meet issues head on. It’s time to find our voices and raise them. It’s that or another shit sandwich, hold the mustard.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Digitalent says:

    Here’s my take on this anonymous rant: The only people more
    clueless about the workings of an ad agency than the trade press – and blogs
    like Digiday acting like the trade press – are the digital vendors seeking to
    service ad agencies. Morrissey always has been peculiar, in that he admits to
    not understanding agencies, but is quick to criticize them and/or let anonymous
    sources criticize them. Agencies outsource digital work? Omigod! What a scoop!
    Agencies outsource print to photographers, illustrators and retouchers. They
    outsource radio to music houses and even radio production vendors. They
    outsource TV spot to directors, production houses, editors, etc. Of course they
    outsource digital. That’s the business model of an agency. Always has been.
    Even the major digital agencies outsource production. Agencies don’t keep
    partners informed? Um, have you ever worked at a digital shop and found things
    to be equally bad – and usually much, much worse? Ad agencies are scared to say
    no? Um, these rants are anonymous because digital vendors will work with anyone
    and take it up the ass without flinching. They’ll bitch about the ad agency all
    morning, but if they get an agency call at noon, they’ll be in the agency’s
    lobby by 12:15. Fear is not exclusive to ad agencies. These digital vendors
    claim the agencies are so useless, yet they aren’t able to woo the work away
    from the agencies because, well, the digital vendors are incapable of
    conceptual thinking.

  2. Digitallent I agree, who ever the anonymous rant is from someone who doesnt understand the whole idea behind agency, or contracting at all. In the end the worlds business needs the expertise of both online experts and traditional ad and marketing agencies.