“Off with their heads!”Lewis Carroll became the best-known user of this phrase after he included it in the classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Queen of Hearts declaims this phrase whenever she comes across any inconvenience throughout the story – inconveniences that were not even close to the ones faced by (the now infamous) Game of Thrones’ pivotal dragon queen’s character. The former would consider a cold cup of tea a punishable offence, while the latter initially tolerated much worse from her adversaries. Now, imagine what it would be like to be a part of the housekeeping staff at the castle of the Queen of Hearts? Not a very healthy working environment, right? How many of us would want to work for an agency run by the Queen of Hearts? Let that thought sink in.
The agencies that thrive (in terms of work) have client servicing departments that act as ambassadors for the brands to the agency (yes, ‘brands to the agency’ not ‘agency to the brands’) and creative departments that consist of a mix of creative leads with a rich history of killing their darlings and young blood that innocently believes that ‘creativity wins pitches here’.
The key departments in every agency are interwoven and if one pillar is weak, the weight falls on the other pillars, and if the weight increases substantially, it crushes them and eventually the entire edifice as well. Interestingly, in cases of a near collapse, the blame nearly always falls on either the creative or the client servicing departments (depending on the agency). I know of agencies with such a low number of designers, that it ends up hurting both the client servicing and the creative departments. In case an issue arises with a client because the ‘dedicated’ designer was urgently required to work on another brand, then I’m sorry but if the agency holds the creative or the client servicing person accountable, it is equivalent to the Queen of Hearts’ “off with their heads” rhetoric.
The reasons why most of us of chose advertising is our drive to tell stories, build brands, work with unique personalities and because we knew we never belonged in a bank. The client servicing and creative functions are like the heart and the brain (client services is the sensible side and creative the sensitive side). Agencies need to respect the roles and characteristics associated with these departments. Generally speaking, creatives are sensitive people who tend to work remarkably well in environments that nourish them with encouragement and provide a sense of security. Sure, they tend to come in late (not all of course) and be slightly goofy, but these attributes are part of the package, the same package that brings to the fore ideas which although may not always see the light of day, will eventually earn the agency accolades among clients. So why place your best assets on a razor’s edge over issues they are helpless in resolving?
Covid-19 has changed the dynamics of the world and WFH has finally made its way to Pakistan’s corporate life (that too at gunpoint). Globally, organisations are taking drastic measures to reduce expenditure. In between the time I wrote the first word of this article and this exact word, the news has broken that international fashion retailer Zara is shutting down 1200 stores. Clearly, ad agencies today are not exactly ideal places to be. In fact, globally agencies are left with little option but to layoff and furlough. All this has resulted in agency employees working day and night from the comfort of their bedrooms but with higher stress levels and the least agency heads can do is to provide them with the motivation and the promise of a better tomorrow (probably the same message most agencies encourage their brands to communicate to their consumers).
Shoving insecurity down the throats of employees and expecting top-notch work from them 24/7 is not only unjust but counterproductive. So, for the good of everyone, let’s just remove the razor please?
J Dawood is a marketing professional.