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

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.