5 Things I Miss (And 5 I Don’t) About Running an Ad Agency
I entered the ad business on the tail end of the “Mad Men” era and it’s been 11 years since I ran two of the largest Philadelphia area ad agencies, and even longer for the many years I spent in NY. I’ve been asked during the recent past whether I miss running ad agencies (no), and do I yearn to return to doing so (hell, no). Truth of the matter, the business has changed dramatically since I started the Strum Consulting Group in 1999. The business I left is far different from the communications agency business of today-and in many ways far less rewarding.
But to be fair, there are things I miss-here are 5 of them:
1. Winning new business-there’s nothing like competition and victory. I liked the camaraderie created by winning a heated competition for a major account along with the associated smug feeling of mental superiority. On the flip side, I hated losing. New business is the ultimate pass/fail course-nothing between. Winning rocks. Losing stinks.
2. As a corollary to #1, I miss “game day”, the new business pitch. I loved the “show” particularly when you know you are really on (if you are brutally honest you know when when you aren’t)
3. Smart co-workers-there were many smart people I worked with over the years. I enjoyed the daily mental banter. I still try to maintain the relationships with the smart people I really liked and respected.
4. Creating powerful ideas that drive business-While I still do this, I do it in a different, more personal way
5. Having the work we created recognized by industry peers. There are those who scoff at industry awards as nonsense. I never viewed it that way. I enjoyed others recognizing the creativity and effectiveness of our agency’s work
However, there are many things that I am glad are in the rear view mirror (actually many more than 5). Here are the top 5:
1. Clients who were not vested in your success. I never understood clients who secretly wanted the agency to fail.
2. Whiners-no explanation needed.
3. People you couldn’t depend on. I hated people who never came through on what they promised, and yet always had an “excuse”, as if I was supposed to think an excuse and a result were one and the same.
4. Companies who don’t pay their bills. The business world is laden with companies who plead poverty and try to skunk vendors for legitimate payments.
5. Tardiness -Those who are constantly late are saying their time and their issues are more important than anyone else’s.
In the end the marketing business is about ideas, big ones that make a difference. I’ve never seceded from that part of the business.