Not this kind of hard.
Not this kind of hard.
This kind of hardness.
Patience, forgiveness and turning the other cheek to win in the long run.
Let me explain.
If you believed the way some of the case studies and awards entries were written, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a lovely little industry where you had bags of times to find an issue, change your mind a few times, hit a few false starts and then have a damascene revelation that everyone will agree with straight away.
Of course, we wear t-shirts more than average people, get to work with colourful people and so on. But underneath all that, it's a hard life. And like most things you need to try on, it's worth it if you love it enough.
The secret to succeeding in agency land isn't being clever, it's not being cool, or imaginative or anything like that, although all of those, of course help greatly (you can learn creativity) .
It's determination and grit. It's hard work. It's being hard. The people I've seen succeed tend to work harder than others. I don't mean hours, they're just more focused, resilient and take the path of least resilience the least.
As a starting point......
If you're a creative, you get used to rejection as most of your work ends in the bin.
if you're a suit, it's dealing with the resulting sociapath tendencies of creatives defending their work and clients defending the bottom line.
If you're a planner, with no power, you're constantly in the line of fire of all of the above who don't want to overthink stuff, they want it off their desks. Constantly persuading and being a good natured liberator of others' stuff and giving away your best ideas for now credit makes you weary.
if you're not a 'lead agency' you're always beaten up by the lead for not staying in line.
If you are lead agency, you're knackered trying to defend your patch and guiding unruly partners who don't like your idea because they didn't think of it.
If you're traffic you're managing the epic struggle between demanding suits and creatives who want more time.
If you're in production, TV, print, digital, you're under fire from the ideas folks who want their idea preserved, who gave you it too late, and the suppliers on the other side.
If you're the client, you're always selling mad agency ideas to stony faced boards, managing squabbly cross relationships and partners who tell you your brief is wrong and badger you for more money you don't have, all the while Tesco are pushing you on margins and the government are beating you up about sugar etc,
And so on.
Yes, you need to be hard. I don't mean a hard faced, aggressive person by the way, quite the opposite.
(I also don't mean someone who wants to be seen to be working. Presenteeism is a disease in some agencies that harms performance, where the numbers of hours becomes the criteria for success, rather than would you do in them!).
Agency life is not short of the aggressive types, the ones who will fight partners agencies over a single word in a powerpoint deck, or 1% of budget. The managers who (this is real quote) "love recessions as a chance to squeeze more work out of staff fearing for their jobs", or the creatives who enjoy torturing account execs.
But I've found few of these endure. Because the thing about this business is that we all need each other. I've made major cock ups, we all have, I've needed help and I'm proud that, by and large, there have always been people to turn to internally and externally to help because I've done stuff for them and I've made a point of being nice and decent. I've also been hung out to dry when I've forgotten thos.
Bastards always get found out in the end.
One of the best lessons anyone taught me was to kill with kindness. The bastards enjoy it when you react. If you smile, endure and just crack on, they respect you a hell of a lot and let up the next time around. It's harder, it requires patience, but turning the other cheek always works in the long term. Bullies give up if they're not seeing you respond.
As does patience in general (I've learned this the hard way). Rejection hurts, of that creative brief you've been really excited about (especially a great proposition, I have tended to write bad ones and let creatives, clients and partners improve them themselves), the presentation you know is great, or even something that dies in procurement. Then there's the moment the client fires you.
As bald,funny looking bloke I lost me ego a long time ago. Thankfully. Rejection is a way of life for me.
I've learned that great ideas are only half of it. If someone doesn't accept what you're selling, you've failed to convince them. Either it wasn't that good, you didn't make it risk free to buy or you didn't sell it properly.
Getting angry is a waste of energy, channelling that frustration in doing it even better next time is productive.
Don't forget, creatives can be quite conservative really, they're still used to messaging briefs. Clients take a while to get where your head is at. Right now, I'm finding it hard to develop comms plans that are not 'get the TV cracked and see what we have left'.
Great ideas are new, they make you uncomfortable at first. They take time.
Change and innovation takes a while to bed in, to quote Alan Partridge, most people don't 'Evolve, they revolve'. You need to play the long game.
Just as it is with job progression.
You don't make much money before 30, it's a slog. While you see other people your age doing easier jobs for more money (but probably a lot more bored). Then it comes in a bit.
And good managers will wait until you're doing the job already before they promote you, because what you think is your job by right, is actually a leap you don't know you'll be able to handle.
So I'm saying you need to be hard and doggedly determined. You need to work at being nice and unflappable, which is much harder than being nasty and reacting to everything.
There's a great quote in Boardwalk Empire about rage. it's about nurturing and channeling that rage to propel you forward, but never let anyone know it's there.
Planners have to fight in any city or region they work in. No one thinks they need them, they need to justify their existence every day. In the North of England, where I work, it's even more so. I've been fighting all my career, against complacency, mediocrity knowing no higher than itself, the politicians and the small mindedness from people who don't know what great looks like and don't care. The suits (even Heads of Client Services) who think they're planners, the creatives in the latest All Saints Gear who just noodle on art directing obvious ideas and so on.
I've many times learned the hard way, but believe me, patience and good manners always win. And every knock back and challenge is just an opportunity to get better and stronger.
Oh, and have an outlet. One to channel pent up frustration and another to relax. There are few problems that cannot be improved by an hour on the bike, messing around cooking or painting with my beloved kids.
Invitably, on the rage thing, Nike said it better..