How serious are you about your advertising career? Are you a hard-charging, award-winning pain in the ass? Many of you, I expect, can answer affirmatively to my non-rhetorical question.
Mark Wnek would have answered, “yes,” at one time. But not today. He’s a new, more mellow man now. In fact, a former colleague thought he had a stroke. He did not. He woke up and hired a life coach. That’s how change happens.
Writing a revealing and personal piece in Ad Age, Wnek adds:
Coming up with ideas to sell things is enormous fun. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Indeed, when the sense of fun and discovery and silliness disappears, I’m convinced it’s an early-warning signal that you and your agency are doing something wrong.
It’s one of the damaging effects of all this technology worship. We’re too anxious to turn over the reins to people and machines that work by numbers and not by fun and charm and enjoyment.
How many new agencies start with the central tenet that everything it does will be fun? None.
Sadly, the agency business is not a lot of fun for many people.
Digiday reports that bullying is yet another pressing problem in Adland today.
Bullying can include excessive name-calling, humiliation beyond feedback when it comes to giving critiques of work or even, in some cases, swearing or using foul language. It can also mean gossip, creating feelings of isolation by banding together against someone else, insults or arbitrary criticism. There are also non-verbal cues like the silent treatment. It can also include stealing credit or plagiarism, something that is common in creative industries, especially at agencies. Unlike in harassment cases, bullies don’t have to be in a position of power.
I’ve worked with bullies. We all do from time to time. The interesting part of the bullying discussion (to me) is properly identifying actual bullying, versus the natural exchange of critical feedback with your peers, bosses, or clients. Advertising professionals spend most of their career having their ideas killed. You can see this as negative feedback, or you can see it as the reality of the business. It is your best ideas versus your colleague’s. In my opinion, if that’s too hard to deal with and too confrontational for your delicate sensibilities, you’re working in the wrong field.
Okay, back to the fun stuff. Wnek says, “Coming up with ideas to sell things is enormous fun.” I totally agree. He doesn’t say how painful it is to have your ideas shot down, but both can be true. It’s fun to dream it up and sad when the creative director or client doesn’t share your vision for improvement. There’s a balance there and the trick is to find it.
Once you decide that fun is critical to success in creative industries, the question is how to have fun. How to have fun in advertising is something that people will learn for themselves. Personally, I enjoy working with people I like and respect. This business runs on relationships and relationships run on respect. When there is no respect from one or both directions, there is no reason to enter or continue the relationship.
I also have fun seeing ideas get brought to life by the team. When those ideas also please the client’s customers, the fun reaches a higher level. It’s fun when things work smoothly. It’s fun when ideas flow into execution and then move people to buy. What’s not fun is pretending that we’re not meant to have fun. Tell a creative person to “fill the digital funnel with drip campaigns,” and you’ll destroy any chance of fun for anyone near your buzzwordy buzzkill approach to solving marketing problems. Instead, you can ask the simplest thing in the world of your creative team: Help our customers have fun.