Working Miracles In Agencies

It’s time to call in Anne Sullivan. You must sit at the table and mind your manners.

After the scene below is one of my favorite movie lines. It’s from The Miracle Worker, Anne Sullivan (Anne Bancroft) just finished breakfast with Helen Keller (Patty Duke). By the way both won an Oscar® for their awesome performances.

“She ate from her own plate. She ate with a spoon. Herself. And she folded her napkin.”

I used to think it was just an anomaly attributed to ad agencies – creatives and account – arguing, fighting, avoiding, circumventing the system. Unfortunately, this can, and does, happen anywhere – even in your local holistic peace-loving organic market. Or bank.

But this is about advertising, marketing, interactive, branding agencies. Where creative and the business of creative intersect. Or clash.

What are they doing? Basically making everything much harder than it should be.

Why? Because everyone has a valid point of their own. The rules don’t apply . . . to them. They don’t “have time”. It isn't their job. And they don't care. Or they know better.

We’ve all heard it over and over.

I have worked with a lot of agencies that call in a peacekeeper. A peacekeeper in the form of a Process, or Tools such as software (oh, yes, it’s technology now), to better track what’s going on – and each other. Sadly, often used as punitive measure just to prove one’s point.

Having worked in and with many agencies, I’ve witnessed it.

First, software doesn’t fix lousy attitudes. It provides structure. You need structure in your rainbow-hued creative world.

Process is discussed ad nauseam – and is never really clear, much less followed – and is always the object thrown in the road like a tack strip to catch a felon.

You didn’t follow process.

So sophisticated ad folks resort to what they know best. They fight. Like kids.

Sometimes, fixing an agency isn’t changing your clients, submitting your magnificent creative to Cannes, or adding to your stable of most sought-after ad men (or women).

Sometimes it’s just looking at how people [don’t] work together.

It should never be that hard to do a day’s work.

Sometimes it takes a little tough love. Everyone needs to know their place, work together (it is, after all a collaboration), and have just a little empathy.

When everyone is at each-other’s throats; at Coffee Bean complaining; working from home (way too much); getting into your stuff and messing with it – it’s time to take a step back and look at what’s really going on.

It’s time for management to put on their big boy Fire Hose Work Pants™ and bring everyone back to Earth. 

Yes, you need a clearly defined process - documented. And yes, you HAVE to have a good, comprehensive (and user-friendly) agency management tool to track work. But not dealing with the people factor will kill every great attempt at implementing process and software.

And sometimes, you just have to be an adult and fold your napkin.

I leave you with this. And yes, you do look like that.