Are Agencies Attracting and Therefore Increasingly Staffed with The Wrong Kind Of People?

I've been mulling this one over for a while, and a few comments recently on post on this blog, and on Ben's have really made me wonder. Let's give this some context, there is the general feeling that the output of the industry has declined in quality, and alongside this, the relationships between client and agency have shifted. At the same time agencies have become very different places to work, more corporate, more fear, more late work, weekend working, more service culture.

There is a lot of debate about these factors and how they relate to each other, the relative cause and effect and so on.

I have a theory that at least part of this is down to the type of people who work in the industry today, and the type who are increasingly being recruited. Creative departments are almost exclusively staffed by people (mainly white, middle-class males) who went from school, to college, to an advertising course, then into the industry, child-like creatives to who seem happy to be treated like a tame crafter. Planning departments seem to attract and be staffed by scholarly theorists who are "intrigued by the human condition" or some such shite, with very little appetite for getting their hands dirty commercially. And account departments increasingly composed of people who quite like the idea of advertising but lack any discernible skills other than ability to say yes to everything.

People are encouraged to get on, collaborate, and be professional. Those who follow the line are promoted, those who question or make life difficult are cut down. In turn, this cycle encourages those safe types to hire more people like themselves, and foster the same play-it-safe, play-by-the-rules approach.

Who is standing up and standing out? No one, it seems. Just a bunch of boring yes-men too scared of losing their jobs to do anything about it, even if they wanted to.

Agencies, and the advertising industry, used to be defined by the dangerous, maverick thinking and attitudes of their people.

Conversely, these days advertising people seem to have adopted the servile, faux-service industry attitude of the agencies that employ them. Whilst the bean-counters run rough shod over the lot of them.

It's all arse-about-face.

If any of those descriptions above sound like you, maybe you're not actually a victim or symptom of the industry's malaise, but actually part of the problem.

This could have as much to do with the ad industry's decline as anything.


  1. Funnily - I think it's become a culture of fear. Fear of losing the client and fear of losing your job.
    < /b>
    From experience - the planners are afraid to tell the client what is good/ right and would rather acquiesce to the client's request to keep the work.
    < /b>
    And designers are scared to stand-up and rebel for fear of repercussions.

  2. Hi there.
    I think you're right. For me, advertising is about one thing: the work. can't create great work without the right (mix of) people and the the right conditions. One kind of person in an agency = one dimensional work. I'm not a lover of quotas and positive discrimination but the current model is rubbish. On a related tip, have a look at this:

  3. Thanks Ant, good post - ta for the link.

  4. Cheers Vic (it is Vic, right?)
    And thanks for the retweet of my latest post.

  5. I'll tell you what the problem is. Kids and mortgages. These two are the allies of clients and douchebags.
    If we didn't have them we'd be shitting on the client's arms, throwing TVs out of windows and screaming "IT'S GOT TO BE GREEN OR I'M GOING TO PISS IN THIS POT PLANT!"
    But we don't otherwise we'd be homeless and our kids wouldn't go to private school.

  6. No worries Ant. There are a few of us who post as Sell! Sell!, but yep, Vic is one.

  7. Why would anyone hire anybody who's going to disagree with them?

  8. sorry.

    i was late to this. but i like all the points raised.

    can i add 1 thing though.

    if it has always been the case that 10% of work is brilliant. then, exponentially, the increase in the amount of advertising is surely responsible for a lot of the reason why the 90% of shit is so shit. and why there is so much of it.

    there's so much naval gazing at what's wrong that we rarely look at what's right.

    i think that sometimes it's because it gives us the excuse for our work to be not quite as good as it could be.

  9. Hello GL, thanks for stopping by.

    I think 10% being brilliant is very generous these days. I think I'd struggle to find you 1%.