Getting A Colorful Reminder Of Who Does The Work

Over at Bnet, Jim Edwards highlights a recent letter sent by Cyrus Mehri and the NAACP to marketers regarding diversity, and the lack thereof, in general market ad agencies. Here’s a bit of what Jim wrote:

Here’s what is likely to happen next: Not wanting to appear racist or get sued, these companies will tap executives to work with Mehri. There will be lots of meetings. The meetings will set hiring goals in each clients’ agencies, and dates for those goals to be met. The deadlines will be different for each company and each agency, making the process as confusing as possible. Time will pass. The deadlines will expire. Some companies and agencies will meet some or all of their goals. The ones that fail will have a range of excuses, from the legitimate to the fraudulent.

That prediction may or may not come true, but here’s what’s at the heart of the problem: Most marketers have no clue who’s really working on their account.
Any time I worked at a big agency on sizeable accounts, I rarely met with the client. The other creatives didn’t. The writers, art directors, production artists, traffic managers, junior AE’s and other people who did the day-to-day work didn’t meet the clients either. Client meetings involved a CD, an account supervisor, even the management of the agency who would show up just to get face-time.
None of that will change unless clients demand it. Agencies are perfectly content to keep their talent hidden away–no matter what the color. And it’s true, some creatives are good with clients and present well, some aren’t. But without presentation skills, or a real face-to-face relationship with clients, your career will go nowhere. Ad agencies are perfectly happy with that status quo. And clients just aren’t interested, even if the people doing the work can provide better insight on the business or the agency relationship–which they often can, just from living with the account.
The ball is in the marketer’s court. They need to ask–and demand–to meet the very people who do the work. Not just the agency people who serve as stand-ins during a new business pitch. Then, and only then, they’ll know how much sunshine ad agencies are blowing up their collective asses.

About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.