tumblr_lh381zD16r1qzbytdo1_1280Over the past few months it seems like I keep having the same conversation over and over again with friends in dozens of agencies around London, it usually starts off like this:

“Who do you think is the best agency is at the moment? Is anyone doing good work?”

And ends with them explaining why they are thinking of moving on. The reasons why are always the same:

“I want to work on an actual product people want to use”

“I want to build my own thing”

“I want to explore more new technology and ideas not gimmicks”

“We never do any interesting work”

“We only care about hitting targets”

“I don’t feel like I’m learning”

“We never push back and tell the client their ideas are shit”

The exodus of talent we’ve been hearing so much about at executive/director level is now filtering down to smart young digital/mobile creatives, planners and account managers.

And can you blame them?

The people who generate all the ideas and work are evolving and realising that they themselves could be reaping the rewards rather than the agency.

Agencies on the other hand are happy to keep trying to live in a world which is ceasing to exist. Clinging onto the same ideas, tools, and ways of working with CEOs who are either oblivious to the current mindset or too frightened to instigate change.

It’s the perfect storm of increasing entrepreneurialism, decreasing  loyalty and an industry reveling in mediocrity.

Startups are offering equal or better salaries than agencies with more perks and chances to get equity, brands are taking design and development in-house after realising they’ve been spending a fuck-load of money on sub-standard work, pure play product and design studios are quickly emerging with young and talented leaders, and of course technology is lowering the barrier to starting your own business, in both time and cost with the freelance market also booming.

Many agencies are offering whatever trend makes them seem relevant to existing and potential clients (who sadly lap this shit up). Whether that’s UX (which never goes beyond wireframes), User Centred Design, MVP,  incubators or the current shiny thing – innovation labs.

While many people will shout “Well agencies aren’t about innovation or hacker-like creativity, it’s just about billable hours”, the sad truth is that whether they are or not, this is what agencies sell, not only to clients but to staff, and that’s the problem.

Promises are made in job descriptions and interviews that aren’t kept.

You never get an agency intro that says “We pride ourselves on creating branded apps that no one wants and churning out banners that no one clicks on, we say yes to all our clients daft suggestions because we know it’s the easiest way to make money. Oh and you’re gonna leave here with nothing worth putting in your portfolio, fancy joining us?”

The talent is there, as is the desire, agencies can try to stop the bleeding and try create places where talented people want to use their skills to build great things for clients and users, or they’ll take their passion and curiosity somewhere else and be left with the deadwood.

So here’s a small but potent list, a view from the ground for the agency execs and CEOs. My own thoughts and those of my peoples, collected from designers and creatives (and a few PMs/devs/planners too) in agencies around London.

1) You won’t stop taking on shit work

We understand, you’re an agency, you need to keep the lights on and pay people. We get that. Everyone gets that.

But at the same time we expect you to have ambitions just like we do.

In the beginning it was cool to take the low-hanging fruit of animated GIF mobile banners and cookie-cutter augmented reality apps, just like we thought making nightclub flyers at uni was cool when we first got into design, but after a while that shit has to stop and you need to start aiming higher.

It’s your job to get the best brands and companies doing interesting projects that push our boundaries. If you’re not winning these projects then that’s something you need to address, it’s down to you.

Look we’re happy to polish a turd or two, it goes with the job, sometimes it can even be a welcome break from intense projects.

But months and months of the same old, soul-destroying, pointless shit for brands and clients who have no desire to do good work is toxic, not just for creatives (and our portfolios) but your entire staff.

I’ve no doubt when you decided to start your agency you dreamt of creating amazing work and pushing the industry forward, not apps that superimpose wigs onto photos.

I love this quote from Moneyball:

“I’m not asking you for ten, twenty, thirty million dollars. I’m just asking for a little bit of help. Just get me a little bit closer and I will get you that championship team. I mean, this is why I’m here. This is why you hired me. And I gotta ask you what are we doin’ here?”

If it’s not to do great work, what are you doing?

Just wanna make money doing any old crap regardless in the hope of selling to Martin Sorrell one day? Good for you, but tell us that at the interview.

2) You don’t innovate

One of the worst feelings as a creative in the digital or mobile space is when it feels like the industry is just passing you by.

In the time it takes to finish one or two mediocre projects the industry takes another leap forward with new software, frameworks, services, devices, APIs, design patterns and interactions, and we take a step back.

The place where you spend 8+ hours a day should be teaching you new skills and giving you hands-on experience and progressing you as a designer.

Clients are often reactive and risk-adverse, they want something after everyone else has done it to death. By the time they give you a brief , it’s old news.

If on some rare occasion they do want something new, it’s never detached from the brand, it’s always got to try and peddle something to someone.  It’ll come with so many caveats that it’s no longer useful or interesting – “oh the legal team said take out that awesome thing that makes the whole project worthwhile”.

It’s understandable that clients have this approach. Brands may not be comfortable with putting experiments and prototypes into the wild, but there’s no reason why you can’t explore this stuff without them.

If you sell ‘innovation’ as one of your agencies capabilities (who doesn’t these days?) then you should be making experiments and prototypes with technology plain and simple.

It’s amazing that so many agencies get away with saying they’re innovative but have nothing to show. Oh so you love being innovative so much that you never create anything internally? You’re creativity stops at client work does it? Do us a favour, stop the bullshit.

There seems to be this misconception that to do anything interesting with technology takes too much time and money if a client isn’t paying for it. This is total and utter bollocks.

In the last few months I’ve attended two different hackdays where individuals and small teams made stuff in hours, not weeks or months. These guys were armed with nothing more than a passion and desire for what they do.

Pure, undiluted autonomy can produce amazing things for your business if you provide the right environment for it to happen and just get out of the way for a bit .

3) You keep hiring shit (and not doing anything about it)

Passion and engagement are contagious. But so is negativity and mediocrity.

There’s nothing more brutal than watching C players bring down A players. And when your A players leave, who’s going to attract your future talent?

Agencies are fast paced places to work and it’s common for teams can scale up in the blink of an eye.

It’s inevitable mistakes in hiring are going to be made whilst under pressure, but the problem is that you don’t have the guts to correct them until it’s too late.

Bad hires are like a cancer, they bring down morale, work and confidence in the business.

Stephanie Travis wrote a great post recently about hiring:

You owe it to the team members who are getting it right. Don’t drag them down with a personality that doesn’t fit or skills that are below awesome.

So if you’re trying to scale your team be focused on quality. Don’t sacrifice. Don’t hire too quickly just because you raised money or because you feel pressure to make things happen. The minute you compromise on quality you’ve already begun the descent.  

So how do you fix it? Advice from Mark Suster:

“One of the “tells” for me of a management team that will not be extra-ordinarily successful is that they’re not always recruiting. I’ve seen it before – I send a talented member to a team and they say to me, “we don’t really have a role for that person.”

Really? I always have a role for talented people. I may not have a BUDGET for talented people – but I always have a role for them. What role? Who the F knows. But let me at least have a coffee and feel out their enthusiasm, talent and ambitions.

I might choose to do an upgrade on my existing team. I might be grooming them for when I have more money or more revenue. I might not be able to persuade them now but I want them to know my company so that when I’m ready to step on the gas I have a list of A players I want.”

4) You don’t stop taking on projects that can’t be delivered unless we work 12 hour daysawesomeworldofadvertising

Ahhh working til 9pm several days a week, it’s just the agency way of life right? Wrong, it’s bad management.

Tell your account managers (or yourself) to stop selling things that can’t be completed unless we work ourselves to death.

I’ve seen people strain their health, relationships and family lives for what? So a deodorant can get more brand awareness? So that we can meet the unrealistic deadline you promised whilst trying to win a pitch? Or so a client can get dozens of mockups before they go on holiday?

This is advertising we’re talking about, not some higher calling. Everything we make is forgotten about in 6 months. Who gives a shit?

Matt Steel puts it in perspective in a brilliant, must-read blog post:

Before his work as a business coach, Peleg ran a successful design firm in LA. He once told me that in the 18 years he owned Top Design, he never encountered a true design emergency. That simple truth resonated deeply with me. At Peleg’s firm, they weren’t saving lives or fighting wars. It was a service firm, and they lived accordingly. His team was in the office from 9–6 Monday through Thursday, and 9–2 on Fridays. They set realistic expectations for their clients and met deadlines. The business thrived. But they didn’t answer the phone at night, and were unavailable on weekends. Peleg’s team had clear boundaries, made them known, and their clients were happy. They worked when they were rested and present. The quality of their output spoke for itself.

As Matt says later on in his post, sometimes you have to stay late because you’ve created a problem or need learn a new tool but too many unrealistic deadlines means that you stop creating because you love what you do. You begin working out of fear.

“When fear rules our lives, even the most amazing calling in life can be downgraded to a career. On the trajectory of fear, careers wane through the grey purgatory of jobs, and jobs break down in quivering heaps at the fiery gates of slavery.”

Fear becomes the driving force, the fear of missing a deadline, disappointing a client or wasting time trying to find inspiration. You begin churning out work and forget the reason why you wanted to be a creative in the first place.

The rewards for creatives are often minimal, we’re happy for a pat on a back and to be included in a ‘thanks for your effort’ all staff email but the chances of getting money, shares (LOLZ) , or even getting your name dropped into the press release for all that hard work are slim to zero.

Which brings us to the next point:

5) You don’t give staff any credit

I really don’t understand why more agencies don’t give exposure to the people who do the actual work.

Instead of putting yet another fucking generic CEO/Creative Director quote into a PR piece, why not grab a line from some of the people who actually worked on the project and busted their arse meeting its deadline?

The Junior Creative who stayed late for 2 weeks getting the project out of the door, the account manager who endured weekend calls from the client asking to make a logo bigger, these guys are the agency heroes.

‘Thank you’ emails are great but they don’t come up in Google and you can’t link to them on blog or CV.

Do the right thing.

Jules hits the nail on the head:

” Ad agencies hide the people actually solving the client’s needs, the creatives, behind bloated layers of account management to ensure maximum billing whilst everyone plays agency snakes and ladders, to the client’s detriment.”

Another way to give staff exposure is to start a blog and everyone contribute. Agencies are full of engaged people with ideas and passions, why not let them have dedicated time to blog?

The blogs of Made By Many, Teehan+Lax and ustwo are great examples of how it should be done. There’s a wide range of contributors – from designers, planners, project managers and developers.

Each post makes it easy to find out about the author and their role in the agency. The authors are clearly passionate about the stuff they write about, sharing work processes, personal interests, tips and ideas.

The agency provides the platform and benefits from the content, the contributors build their reputation and presence in the industry, everyone wins.

6) You don’t buy us decent equipment

This is a no brainer. Get your designers some big fucking screens.

Have you ever had to toggle between designing in Photoshop, a PDF containing wireframes, a email from a client with amendments, Facebook and Twitter all on one poxy 15-inch TFT Dell monitor that the last finance director left behind?

This quote from an agency exec on Digiday sums it up:

“My one recent anecdote is when one of our new hires sent me an email requesting dual monitors and that one of them be a large one. I simply forwarded the email to that girl’s manager suggesting that she come check out my dinky 15-inch monitor that I’m rocking.”

Wow I bet this guy is fun at salary reviews.

I’m sure 15-inches is fine for reading emails and renewing your golf club membership but for something slightly more critical to the business, like, you know, the actual work that brings in money, it’s gonna need to be bigger.

Quite simply, we produce better work with better equipment and software. If it takes 10 seconds to move a Retina graphic across my canvas in Photoshop on my crusty machine you can be damn sure pixel-perfection won’t be my priority when deadline approaches.

Our job is to create, not worry about the ancient equipment you dragged out the cupboard. No designer wants to play ‘Guess whether Photoshop has crashed’  for half of the day.

Pressed for cash? Apple do finance plans and HotUKDeals do daily emails. Oh and eBay.

The end

So there you have it.

I know people will say that agencies have always had high-turnover of staff and that these reasons have always existed, but I’ve been doing this for just over 7 years and it just feels different this time. 

There’s so many more options now that weren’t around 3-4 years ago, the way people are talking and the general mood has completely changed.

Whilst working at Isobar, every talented graduate or young UI designer I tried to recruit wanted to get experience working on products. They didn’t care about the type of work the agency produced. The brands were no big draw either. iPhone app for a beer brand? Mobile site for moisturising cream? So what?

When one of the designers told me “I want to look after users, not brands”, I had no reply, he was right. That’s all that you ever really do in a place like that.

I stayed in touch with a few of them, they work in tech companies or startups now.

Once they get a taste of real problems and caring for the end user, it’ll be near impossible to go back to doing marketing fluff.

Dustin Curtis wrote in his recent post

“Learning how to think like this is like discovering halfway through your life as a flightless bird that you have wings and can fly. And once you discover it, there is no going back. It’s addictive and powerful. It ruins your ability to be a worker bee, because you’ve tasted blood: you become a killer bee, intent on understanding why things are the way they are, finding their flaws, and pushing the universe forward by fixing them.”

This feeling is the one that is rarely understood by the execs but it’s critical to realising the future of the industry. Maybe when the hackers and makers are running the show, things will change.

Time to wrap this up, thanks to everyone who contributed!

If you know some talented and disgruntled designers, you can put them on Hire My Friend anonymously. Or tell them to check out this post.

The great illustrations are from The Awesome World Of Advertising

Say hello on Twitter

  • Jack Barham

    Cracking article mate :)

  • Joel Blackmore

    Great post. Design within advertising agencies certainly is an interesting topic. I do think that someone working in a creative field should strive for perfection, iterating, testing, revising. I think the agency / client servicing model goes against this because you either do work for XX amount of paid hours, or until the client says “good enough!”. On a rare occasion (if sold in properly) design can become a focal feature of an agency project, but in general it’s work until ‘good enough’ and move on. This is why we talk about great design that comes from products, never really from an advertising agency: Clear, Path, Pocket, Google Maps etc.

    Is it possible to create excellent design when designing for someone else, on a set budget?

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      The budget thing is really interesting, you and I both know the obscene amounts of money being spent by brands on things that get downloads a few thousand times. Sometimes 6 figures.

      That’s more than a seed round for most startups.

      So I guess it comes down to, what value are clients really getting out of the agencies for the money they are spending? It’s not like the budgets aren’t enough to create stunning things.

  • Ben Perman

    Brilliantly written, honest article.
    Any designer with a modicum of ambition does not want to be left behind in a toothless agency and realises the importance of being in an environment where they can learn, develop, be constantly inspired, praised when its due and importantly have the confidence that if they are briefed to design something, to be creative, that their idea will be considered and given constructive feedback rather than shelved in favour of the usual shit that’s rolled out.

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      Totally agree

  • Stephanie G Travis

    Great article! You have a pingback to a site on which I blog, gainesvilletech dot com. You credit Mark Suster with my blog link, and one of the two quotes you attribute to Mark is mine.

    This is my quote from my blog post of gainesvilletech dot com / grow-a-pair-hire-fast-fire-fast: “You owe it to the team members who are getting it right. Don’t drag them down with a personality that doesn’t fit or skills that are below awesome.”

    The following quote (right beneath my quote) is not on my blog post and may in fact be something said by Mark Suster: “So if you’re trying to scale your team be focused on quality. Don’t sacrifice. Don’t hire too quickly just because you raised money or because you feel pressure to make things happen. The minute you compromise on quality you’ve already begun the descent.”

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      Whoops, quotes fixed!

  • Nick Mason

    I’m going to have this embroidered on nylon and run it up my flagpole – hope you don’t mind?

  • Mathieu MM

    All my thoughts in one comprehensive article. Thank you a million times. Let’s get that printed in Ad Week and Communicate every week for a month. Or maybe two, let’s get two.

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      defo two!

  • Martin ♕

    Holy shit – thanks for writing this. You’ve summed up the thoughts and anxieties of every discontented agency-bod like myself. I have worked in 3 agencies – the ambition I had a some years ago. Agencies are over-rated and you’re right, mostly produce marketing fluff – always just chasing the next bunch of billable hours instead of actual consumer value.

    Thanks again. Get this in Net Mag and Creative Review.

  • VicJ

    Agree with every single word of it – I just switched agencies for pretty much all of the above.

  • i_like_robots

    Yes, yes and yes. Point 3 resonates with me most, poor colleagues are demoralising.

  • Nick

    Stop moaning, chaps. Just stop working for shit agencies. They don’t owe you anything – if you’re not happy and you’re good, either work for yourself or for one of the many good agencies out there.

  • http://devolute.net devolute

    On one hand it’s great to feel “I’m not alone”. On the other it’s terribly depressing to know I’ve not just been unlucky.

  • nati

    Completely agree. Just moved from agency to a software company – because I deserve the right equipment and some recognition for spending my whole day and draining my brain to the end.

  • Moo

    I think I’m gonna quit my job today so I can bitch to everyone in our thick-carpeted ad agency about what a lame bunch of sycophantic trolls they really all are, slaving away on utterly shit-hopeless work for no end other than to appease their truly awesome lifestyle. I will rail against the audacity of anyone who suggests I may be a fool for setting up a digital shop that will undermine the major agency client list. as I place my order for a shiny new Aston Martin. How dare their sad delusional points of view ruin my efforts to be the smartest guy in the industry, to leave the nipple suckling security of a underpaid salary to bank-roll my pot of gold at the end of the digital start-up rainbow.

  • http://flippa.com/blog Ophelie Lechat

    Oh hell yes. Great post.

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      Thanks!

  • mamozilla

    I’ve worked for agencies and startups, and I can tell you that in the long run, I see very little difference, equity or not. Replace clients with investors and suits with founders, and all the same rules apply, especially for creatives, as everybody takes credit for, or completely ignores, the best design ideas.

  • http://www.ikf.co.in/ I Knowledge Factory

    I bet you’ve hit the right spot dude. Brilliant!!!
    But there are few companies who appreciates the work of his/her employee or colleague who actually have done great work and needs appreciation his/her work for that individual project or client.

  • Kostas Bartsokas

    Great post!

  • The Duke

    I assume we sign this petition … here. Great article, well said, and well substantiated.

  • zanzavar

    Very well written. Great article.

  • Silvio Paganini

    Everything I always wanted to put in a post, thanks!

  • http://matthewmorek.com Matthew Morek

    Great piece which reminded me why I went freelance in the first place, after busting my butt off for shoddy agencies for 3 years. There’s no compassion for us in places like these, places that value billable hours rather than our skills, knowledge and willingness to push onward.

  • Chris Demetriad

    It’s not always like that. Hate and ignorance is not good. Better be fair about it.

  • A concerned citizen

    I’ve just left an agency after 3 years to do exactly the things detailed in this enlighting post. People thought I was mad to go and hunt freelance or a startup, but the writing is on the wall. There are so many negatives about agency life that you only really start to wake up and realise after cutting your teeth. I just wish I’d read this 12 months ago.

  • disqus_v1MDkxrEd1

    Two weeks’ notice*

  • Diana Janicki

    Brilliant honest article that really sums up the frustration of an industry still in ‘marketing’ mode, playing catchups with a brave new world of dreamers who do.
    Great to know it’s not just me and I’m not alone in my eternal hunt for a likeminded crew.

  • http://www.samharries.com/ Sam Harries

    This is fabulous and hits every nail directly on the head. My only regret is that the people who truly need to read this aren’t the type to do so. Our industry is fantastic…

  • mrtgrady

    Overall I agree, although this has been said so many times before by so many other people and the Agency model still persists.

    One bone of contention though:

    “Many agencies are offering whatever trend makes them seem relevant to existing and potential clients (who sadly lap this shit up). Whether that’s UX (which basically just means wireframes), User Centred Design, MVP, incubators or the current shiny thing – innovation labs.”

    UX basically means wireframes? I hope you mean that’s how the agencies interpret UX because to me UX is that plus user research, competitor analysis, heuristic analysis, prototyping, user centred experience design, multi-variate testing, guiding designers and developers efforts to deliver outstanding executions, defining analytics criteria and a whole load of other jobs. That’s what User Experience Architects really do, not just drawing some lines in Omnigraffle.

    It’s like saying all UI designers do is colour in boxes.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some wireframes to do.

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      Thanks for this. I tweaked the line so it says “(which never goes beyond wireframes)” I meant to say that wireframing is the extent of the UX done

      • mrtgrady

        Now that I agree with. UX is seen a bit like project management was (and often still is) – as an unnecessary expense and delay so why invest money and effort in it.

    • http://www.mobileappaddict.com/ John Defahl

      The best part is trying to explain to people that UX/UI design didn’t even exist until 5 years ago. Remember back in the day when as a designer you had to know HTML and Photoshop?!?! When did wireframing become a job?!? Well now that it is, I can’t believe I have to prove to these people that I know how to wireframe. A lot of these new comers need to understand that if we have been working in the industry before the role was even created, then we know how to do the role.. We just got sick of doing it ourselves.. and hired someone to do that specific part.. but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it. Ugh, “What’s your process?” My process is, I design stuff.. haha

      • mrtgrady

        Really? UX didn’t exist until 5 years ago? The UxPA was founded in 1991. Go figure.

  • Matt Linn

    Superbly written, sadly a universal issue across numerous professions.

  • Peter_Meinertzhagen

    Really enjoyed the post and agree with just how important all of the points are here. Of course it’s worth pointing out that not all agencies are like this and some are really trying there best to get the balance right between true innovation and the boring stuff that pays the bills. Essential reading for anyone in charge.

  • abigsplash

    Excellent post, and so very, very true. Thank you.

  • Designer023

    Fantastic post. Really great points and an entertaining read!

  • kiplinger

    Been in Creative at agencies (traditional and digital) over 12 years and was with you on this wholeheartedly until I got to the line that UX is just basically wireframes. While this isn’t what the post is about and the rest of the post is pretty great you/it lost credibility with me based on that one point. UX is WAY more than wireframes and your lack of knowledge is something I see as one of the saddest and greatest dangers to the Creative craft in agencies. I thought most of us were way past that limited view.
    Maybe consider learning what UX (you summed up an entire discipline into one Information Architecture deliverable) is and how essential it is. Whether you’re working at an agency or going the entrepreneurial route a short sighted statement like that and lack of understanding are going to hinder your success.

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      Hi, see the comment below, that’s not what I meant by that, it was to say “wireframing is the exent of UX in agencies’ tweaked the line

    • Guest

      If you were cynical, you could suggest that many *agency* UX practitioners are actually Interaction Designers with a new title – they draw boxes and arrows and wireframes (what we used to call Information Architecture) with a set of heuristics for guidance. You could also suggest that the bloody ridiculous, arcane, alien acronym – UX – was born because our industry saw it fit to obfuscate what is really an architectural role. My guess is that a few leading practitioners wanted to break out of the mold and claim an expertise for themselves, that sounded REALLY new and different.

      Fast-forward a bit, and you’ll notice that this has now led to such an uptake that anyone with an old copy of Visio is in UX. In an agency setup where you charge by the hour, UX can then be a distinct post on the project budget, which means a lot of agencies are keen to ‘focus on UX’ without perhaps doing much that is *that* fucking different from before.

      Sure, UX is essential if you create anything for a digital age, and should by rights sit on or near the top of the whole decision tree. But in agency land, it usually boils down to that we’re now able to charge a bit extra for the wireframes without the client bitching about it.

      Then there’s the whole Customer Experience (CX) profession, usually found at the large telecoms clients etc – experienced in making solid, financially driven business cases at board level, getting decent budgets and then investing in infrastructure that enables an organisation to deliver a good customer experience (such as a ‘single view of the customer’). They also talk about HCI and Usability but never seem to mention or touch UX. You won’t find them mentioned in the same books or at the same conferences. Yet both appear to be tasked, in a digital age, with service design. There seems to be a fair amount of bitching in the UX camp that CX gets the glory, the budgets and the remit while UX is stuck keeping Marketing from doing something stupid.

      But the post is not about UX. It’s about the sad cesspit that is most advertising agencies.

      • kiplinger

        Believe me I am a cynic and can’t agree more with what you’ve said about UX in agencies and CX.

      • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

        Great comment, totally agree with:

        “But in agency land, it usually boils down to that we’re now able to charge a bit extra for the wireframes without the client bitching about it.”

        Client hears UX is a thing but doesn’t know what it really means > agency sells UX = profit

      • James King

        Having worked at one of the top Interface Design agencies (working directly on UI for telecoms clients and mobile banking apps) and then moving across to a more “traditional” agency to “reinvigorate and restructure our Digital offering”, I was constantly shocked, surprised and awe-struck by the institutionalised challenge that these agencies face.

        It’s very difficult for a C-suite that is used to their industry working in a very certain sort of way to first comprehend, and secondly (and most importantly) have the level of trust and faith needed to relinquish structural (and this is both in terms of internal process and recruitment) control to those that do understand the evolving advertising/design landscape.

        There are certain digital executions that can still fit into the old model. Display ads, simple campaign microsites, basic campaign apps, and ad agencies will cling onto this work and charge for “wireframing” etc, however ask them to truly innovate, and conceptualize, design and build multi-platform, trans-media, action orientated service experiences (bloody hell that’s sounds jargon-y but hopefully you know what I mean…!) and most agencies just aren’t set up to operate like that.

        That’s not some damning critique of the talent in agencies. There are still hugely capable creatives at many of these houses, it’s just that those in charge of creating an environment and process that allows these creatives to express themselves in executions that are concurrently innovative, creative and (importantly) solve a true business problem.

        It’s easier to start from scratch than strip out the old, cancerous heart that used to power some incredibly powerful, beautiful work that just doesn’t, well, “work” anymore.

        In terms of the current landscape, look to some of the traditional “consulting houses” for inspiration. Accenture have just embarked on a relatively ambitious acquisition strategy that will allow them to own the entire consultation, development, creation and distribution funnel. And they haven’t gone near any “ad” agencies, digital or otherwise.

        Compare that with the WPP/Publicis merger that, in my humble opinion, achieves nothing other than creating an even more confused (although hugely billable” behemoth.

        If I were a brand, I know who I’d go to…and creatives should do the same IMO.

        n.b. I bloody “love” quotation marks….

  • fero

    Excellent! You’ve taken the words out of my mouth!

  • Rina Atienza

    “There’s nothing more brutal than watching C players bring down A players.” – BOOM.
    Rotten apples do spoil the barrel.

  • Clara Soon

    The article is definitely worth reading, i cant agree more… this is so so so trueeee…

  • whoiscarrus

    Great article! My wife and I are thinking of staffing up our micro agency and this really opened my eyes to think about how we grow our team. Thank you for sharing. I’m definitely going to take a lot of this into account. Very inspiring!

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      The article by Mark Suster I linked to is so on point when it comes to hiring. Worth going through most of his blog, he’s got lots of good advice, check it out:

      http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/

      Thanks for reading!

      • whoiscarrus

        Thanks for the link!

  • Joe Corbett ✜

    I’m sorry I ever played any part in this type of arrangement, but I did… Twice. :-(

  • Andrew Williams

    Every nail hit on the head. Inspiring.

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      Cheers for reading!

  • Ben Collins

    “So a deodorant can get more brand awareness?” Instead of a harsh look at the fitness of agency culture, maybe go another level up and look at the fact that they are all in the business of maximizing deodorant brand awareness in the first place. You can easily point out the flaws with any bad place to work, but will you accept the fundamental problem with the purpose of the work? And “just saying no to deodorant clients” is a copout that doesn’t jive with the reality of business.

    Make money. Do so in an environment that is stifling and stressful, or do so in a happy place. I think complaints about how the default culture of agencies is less than functional echoes in the chamber of a bleary-eyed humanity stuck in a hyperbranded world. It’s articles like this one that reflects how creative people in particular want their lives and work to have meaning, but in the end, most clients just want to make more money. Their definition of value is less interpretive than an artist’s.

    Sure, every agency has those “cool” clients. The ones that the cool kids get to work on. Meanwhile, everyone else (including all that poorly recruited half-talent) gets stuck on yet another toilet paper commercial. But toilet paper has value! And the brand I am working on REALLY REALLY is the softest one on the market! Toilet Paper is like one of modern man’s archetypes – it represents cleanliness and health! I’m doing something IMPORTANT!

    To me, this scenario is why the talent is leaving “shitty” agencies. I think changing your job so you can at least work for a functional business is as good a reason as any. The real crisis however is the scarcity of pure brands (owned by impossibly sincere, sensitive people) offering pure value to pure customers, which I imagine is what fresh, brilliant, creative minds wistfully dream of spending their energy on. It takes a special kind of psychology to get turned on by profit alone… the same kind that runs most companies today – who happen to be our damn clients.

  • http://keithstoeckeler.com/ keithstoeckeler

    Well done.

  • Mandy Cobb

    Some interesting comments on this post, I’m currently working on some research about life at advertising agencies; good and bad experiences. If anyone’s interested in sharing their stories with me just leave me a reply below and I’ll be in touch, thanks!

    • http://kyleracki.com/ Kyle Racki

      Hey Mandy, I’d love to chat. kyle AT proposify DOT biz – I’m doing a similar thing.

  • Rene Belloq 12 inch figure

    couldn’t agree more. I recently left a big name agency and I’m at a little one super happy.

  • http://www.moderninsider.com/ Ted Sindzinski

    Coming from someone “on other side of the table,” well done. I’ve worked with some fantastic people / firms over the year but peeking behind the curtain, those are harder to find, the results more often blah, and it simply sucks to know the team doing your work isn’t into their job… even more so when they leave and you have to start all over.

    Simply put, if your client wouldn’t tell their best friend to work for you, there’s something wrong and the gap tends to stem from the very start…

    Agencies must position themselves as strategic, as partners… not producers. The great ones I know have no problem saying no as a result and that allows for a lot.

  • raphunk

    Lets just send this to all of our CEOs. That would ruffle some feathers for sure.

  • amportfolio

    You know, it’s funny. I never had an issue with doing “uninspiring work” or “shit work”. As you stated, it makes money and keeps us employed. I simply come in and treat my work as a job. I never sat there worrying about if I’m making “amazing portfolio” stuff, because in all honesty I’ll go home and do that. I’ll build a website for my own amusement, or take on a freelance client who more listens to my expertise over dictating to me as if I’m just a robot on Photoshop.

    BUT…Point #4 is the one that always rings in deep with me. It’s one thing when you’re doing the “blah” work for a paycheck, but another when your employer wants to believe that the ideal employee is one who goes from 9AM til 11PM every day. I’ll even admit I’ve had employers who thought my team was “lazy” for leaving work after 8 hours.

    Yet I see it over and over. Stressed out creatives desperately trying to please some exec who is full of himself, believing he’s the test tube child of Don Draper and Steve Jobs, only to come up mediocre because they need a healthy meal, a shower, and sleep.

    Worse is when egotistical exec keeps coming down on everyone, claiming we’re not pushing the creative envelope, when our clients only push us back to mediocrity. Even more is when said execs force us all to work 12+ hours to come up with loads of ideas/concepts…only to dismiss them all and hand us their idea, which we’ll be going through with.

    I would love to sit in a kickoff and tell said exec to stop wasting our time with brainstorming sessions and concept development and just hand us your “big idea” that we’ll go with. We can only hope more small shops like Matt Steel’s come up and scare the big agencies into losing the “Mad Men” logic.

  • Felix Turner

    I’ve worked on both sides, agency and start-up. There are pros and cons to each, so it’s not as simple as saying: everyone quit your job and go work for a start-up. That said, if you hate your job, quit and try something else. The only way to find out if you like something is to try it.

  • benleoni

    I’ve worked for an agency and started my own so I’ve seen both sides. We sometimes have to go for the low hanging fruit to keep the lights on (salary and benefits are a hell of an expense) but we work extremely hard to win and work on the stuff that really matters.

    We may not be there yet, but starting with $900 and building an extremely profitable agency that pushes for innovation and greatness is totally doable. Shitty agencies are run by shitty, boring, lazy people, striving for greatness but settling for status quo – and they’ll always be that way.

    http://www.design-pilot.com

  • http://www.mobileappaddict.com/ John Defahl

    Amazing article, and a very revealing take on the bs we as designer and developers have to deal with. I left an agency that was considered “Top Agency of the Year”. You would think such an agency with a client list to die for could spend the money on buying a license for a specific type of software that was used on every project for testing. Nope, they wouldn’t. Instead I had to shut down and reboot every 45 minutes, and then they wondered why it took me so long. I actually added up the minutes it took to reboot and test to show them that it was literally IMPOSSIBLE to deliver X at a certain time. This still wasn’t acceptable to management.. It was as if they thought they could wish really hard and it would all work out.

    One of the last projects I had to take on which was one that pretty much broke the camels back with me was when I was expected to some how show that IE8 was a better browser choice then Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. Talk about being setup for failure! Another situation was when I was forced to refactor code ever week that could have been scripted.. Why, because they wanted more billable hours, and refactoring code took longer. Its this type of thinking at agencies that drives away intelligent people. At some point I stopped caring because they never seemed to care in the first place.

    Plus, I will never allow someone or something to ruin my life again over advertising. Why am I about to have a nervous breakdown over black Friday, this is ridiculous.

    • http://www.whatwouldshethink.com/ Rachelle

      $%?&* IE8 managed to be the thorn in my side when it comes to amazing digital campaigns having to be chopped up because of that irrelevant browser…. the browser exclusively used by a huge international client… who wanted innovation but could never see it…

  • Guest

    Very good blog, I wrote something similar to your ideas about the state of things from my own side (as an MD and creative director of a post production company that does TVCs and online ads for agencies and production companies):
    ‘Why is mediocrity such a powerful force?’
    http://thelooklondon.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/why-is-mediocrity-such-a-powerful-force/

    Hope its of interest

  • thelooklondon

    Very good blog, I wrote something similar to your ideas about the state of things from my own side (as an MD and creative director of a post production company that does TVCs and online ads for agencies and production companies):
    ‘Why is mediocrity such a powerful force?’
    http://thelooklondon.wordpress.com

    Hope its of interest

  • first and last

    This article needs to be shared.

  • NicktheBennett

    The most enjoyable and refreshing read of the year, so far. #TruthBombs

  • Matt Bowden

    Great article – I read this yesterday and had a bit of a Jerry Maguire moment – And I don’t mean the “Show me the money” moment…

  • Maurice Kindermann

    Haha love it, great post :).

  • Wakefield Consultant

    I have been in the industry for 20 plus years and you hit every single “pain point” for creatives right on the head. Thank you!

  • Barney

    Pretty much sums up with me what’s wrong with designers–”creatives” are more than just effing designers. This isn’t irrelevant, it’s real. Putting design first and writing second is what turns a lot of this work INTO shit work, and it’s why the “pure play” shops don’t work. There’s no strategy behind it and the actual content of the effing matter is ridiculously terrible.

  • Andy Newbom

    apparently someone needs to make an agency that never gives the customer what they want, only gives them what they do best. http://www.andynewbom.com/give-em-what-you-do-best/

  • brian™

    5. Is about “credit” more than just getting your name in the paper. It’s also about giving a clear reward or benefit for pulling all nighters. Creatives in general are not that difficult to make happy. Give us free food once in a while, fresh coffee brewed in the morning, a pat on the back once in a while, and freedom to produce great work and we’ll be happy..especially the last point. Sure the arcade rooms, pool tables, open bar on Fridays, etc, is nice but all in all we’re here cuz we love creating things and seeing our ideas come to life. You can not offer all of the other benefits but if you fuck with our ability to deliver and do great work you can bet we’ll be looking to a new agency.

  • Paul_Rand

    Ah fucking cry babies! Who gives a shit. Everyone has these complaints at some point. THink you can do better? ..GO DO IT!! Why bother asking your employer to be better for your career. GO MAKE YOUR CAREER!!! FIND A NEW PLACE TO WORK!! KEEP LOOKING OR MAKE YOUR OWN – and when you are billing in the 100,000 – 1000,000,000 range you can have a staff that resents you too and feels apathetic to making you $$$$$$$$$$$….GOT IT?!?!?!

    • Joel Blackmore

      Love it. lol.

      As profound as this comment sounds, this is actually a good (obvious) point. I agree with the majority of the post but, as I mentioned in my first comment, I think there is an issue designing for someone else and on a set budget. I think the best design comes iteratively from new products with no previous brand image. I think to get away from this problem the only issue is to work on an ongoing product that is updated iteratively over a sustained time – something very rare in traditional / digital agencies.

      If you want out, there is only one way out…

    • CAYdenberg

      The one hundred thousand to 1 billion range? That’s some serious ad revenue

    • Terry Chisholm

      Paul_Rand – Starting an agency and building it up means doing less design & creative and more people and project management. I know. I did it.

    • antquinonez

      And I agree. What a foul mouth! It makes reading this piece nearly unpalatable. My opinion: you’ll never be happy, unless you call all the shots and have all the power. The sign of a professional is dealing with the garbage. Deal with it or get another job and don’t act like a prima dona. You have no problem calling other people ‘shit’ but expect to be treated decently? Ha! Want credit? A byline? Do your own work!

  • http://mobileuserexperience.com/ Marek Pawlowski

    What’s the next step Murat? Your article clearly struck a chord with those working within agencies, and perhaps with their clients too. Does it point to a gradual dwindling of ‘agency’ as an industry? If so, does that mean new ideas will increasingly find their route to market as individual start-ups and within the internal ‘new ventures’ teams of established companies?

    What would a future model for agencies need to look like if they are to supply meaningful talent to help startups and corporates grow ideas faster and better? Is it possible to establish a different system of reward so that those working on behalf of clients remain inspired to do their best work?

    My view is that concept of ‘agency’ has potential, but requires restructuring in 2 areas: learning and renumeration.

    Agencies grow on talent and it is in their interests to place ongoing learning (in all its forms, from sharing of best practice to experimental ideas) at the heart of the business. People are motivated by reward and that can take different forms: financial, clearly, but also in opportunities for personal growth. Renumeration should always have an element that gives those working on a project direct exposure to its success and an incentive to ensure lessons from each new engagement are recycled back into the agency’s culture.

  • james sheehan

    What foul language. Theoretically everything can be made perfect in the right conditions and you make it sound easy. . This Would require everyone ( clients included) feeling the same way you do. . They Just Don’t. I suggest you try a little account handling for a clear picture of ‘the front line’

    • DMC

      Account handlers are the cancer in any agency.

      • WTF?

        So who should handle the accounts? The creatives? The same people moaning about the extra hours they already have to work? Account management is an art! Without good account managers, most agencies wouldn’t function. And before anyone says it, no, I’m not an AM. I’m actually a designer. But I’ve had to fall into the account management side on occasion and I hate it – I admire the guys that deal with clients all day every day, whilst I sit comfortably listening to spotify and doing a job I love!

        • Charlie Tetro

          Account managers often make decisions without communicating with the people that are actually doing the work. Often times an account manager will come to me and tell they need this and this and I tell them why this and this can’t be done.

          • thatgirlinnewyork

            Well then you’ve worked with bad ones. You’re describing a team dynamic that might make someone loathe bringing you anything because you’re ready to tell them why you can’t.

            And that “…the people who are actually doing the work” bit? Yeah–you go in and negotiate a compensation agreement and budget with a client, then haggle with the agency holding company for their (rather large) cut of the profit while making sure the greater majority of the team doesn’t sit on three months worth of timesheets and suddenly screw you out of the hours you “need” to turn something around. Good luck with that.

        • DMC

          First off, if people are working long hours, it’s down to bad management, as the article points out. So yes, ‘creatives’ should manage their own accounts, as happens at countless thousands of agencies without mishap, one notable one being Edenspeikerrmann. The idea that account management is an ‘art’ is laughable, it’s a basic (very basic) business skill that everyone should learn.

  • jayson

    I’ve been in the industry since 1994. I got out last year, after a decade at the director and executive level. Everything in this article is 100% true, and exactly why I walked away.

    If there were an agency that took this to heart, I might go back.

  • iantearle

    Brilliant post. I agree with every word, and is exactly why I found a company that is truly creative and has an aim for product development.
    That’s where this industry is going. In house teams who can concentrate on the user using their product.

  • pbarrio

    I worked over 7 years in agencies and the past 2-3 years have been like you described. It wasn’t like that when I started, we did innovate and talent was wanted and celebrated. But that was mostly in smaller agencies. I think those type of agencies don’t exist anymore though or perhaps they’re being overshadowed by larger agencies doing shitty campaigns. Whilst in many cases clients make decisions based on fear, it’s also true that agencies have to start challenging clients too instead of fearing them. I now work for a tech company because of all those reasons… wanting to create something, seeing something through from beginning to end… and I was bored of doing just campaigns, one after another, all the same… when I knew we could hit targets long term if we focus on creativity and innovation. But nothing is long term for ad agencies right now.

  • Jonathan Alderson

    This is, without exception, the best thing I’ve ever read.

  • http://simondoggett.com Simon Doggett

    Balls of steel. Well said.

  • http://www.bikeexif.com/ Chris Hunter

    As someone who bailed out of an ad agency after being a CD and ECD during the last few years, this is the most accurate appraisal of the current ad scene that I’ve ever read. Well done.

  • woo

    truth. at. last.

  • Deana B

    This article rings very true to me as a planner who just left a digital agency for a startup. My former agency was small, mostly lovely and had particularly excellent leadership. But the entrepreneurial lure is strong these days. (Better pay AND equity?!) However I would add the sham of “integrated agencies” to your list of qualms. Sister agencies scrabbling over crumbs of work is one of the most depressing things. Also, as someone who worked in social media, I would also add to the list a mounting suspicion about its cost v benefit ratio in many cases.

  • James King

    Stunningly, jaw-droppingly, on point! Having done equal time at both fantastic and woefully inept agencies, this rung truer than anything I’ve read in a while. Interestingly, the best agencies often don’t think that they’re an agency at all. One was a true (and I know this term gets, inaccurately, bandied around ad infinitum these days) service design agency without an “account handler” in sight, while the other was an ex-production studio that realised they’re talent was above and beyond that of the “established” agencies that were constantly farming work out to them.

    Worryingly, if someone with an iota of creativity, talent and ambition asks me which agency to apply to, I often point them the other way, towards in-house teams and “studios” that are truly innovating.

    RIP Advertising Agency World. RIP Madison Avenue. RIP Charlotte Street.

  • Ivy Mahsciao

    I skimmed through the comments below, and of course, saw polarity—there was something to be celebrated, like when people toasts at a bar while watching something agreeable on tv, then there was something cynical, although not untrue about “cry babies”.

    I think the article is a great one, and it’s productive one when it’s received within the right context. There’s not anything one can do about the sad state of the sitch, but this article made me whip out my typing fingers at 7am, and I’m still laying in bed.

    It’s a great article, because like truly great UX (that actually goes beyond wireframes), it compels you to be involved—it resonates and it’s relevant.

    • James King

      +1 “like truly great UX” resonating and remaining relevant!

    • John Wen

      Ivy’s comments are a breath of fresh air and reason. It’s easy to blame the (insert whoever you want) ______ people. It stems from not standing for what’s great and taking a backseat to mediocrity. I worked on a winning pitch that included a beautiful website by an Aussie freelance designer. He was never given credit for the work. He was fantastically talented and left a couple of weeks later. The website was mothballed as the client got cold feet. No one said “Thank you. Stay. Do more incredible work, we’ll make it worth your while”. Fucking shame really.

  • Daniel Hooker

    Sorry, but you “creatives” seem full of yourselves. While you might think that creating the prettiest website in the world is important, but as a web developer of nearly 10 years standing, I can tell you that it actually matters very little. “Good enough” is what’s important. If you work for an agency then that’s what you’re producing – “good enough” websites for your client on tight deadlines to a budget. If you don’t like it, don’t work for an agency. It’s as simple as that.

    • Tim R.

      Yeah, you are the exact problem he’s talking about. Your “good enough” attitude is a cancer and should be fired/replaced. Apathy is a killer and has no place in a proper agency that gives a shit. You sound like one of my Art Directors who continually tells me that “I’m over-thinking it.”

      Boo this man.

    • Timothy L. Hinson

      Prettiest?! If you think creatives are concerned with such superficial BS, think again. This is how we beat each other up every day: we are the first to say when ideas are useless and designs are cursory (this is also why you need a thick skin in creative—we’re harsh critics). I don’t think you understand what it takes to create websites, or advertising which actually requires an understanding of global culture, that “works” on levels beyond page loads and responsive design. We take into account the current state of affairs of web design, inherent interest and attraction, pragmatic experience AND entertainment, etc. Get a clue, man. We’re not full of ourselves—we’re full of the responsibility to make something that works and is true for our clients. You might consider taking a more vested interest in your clients’ welfare as well. “Good enough”—get a clue, man.

    • http://dempseystudio.blogspot.com TimothyDempsey

      It can be traced back to the “playing God” aspect of being creative at all. Design is really not a field where wallflowers are going to thrive.
      As a web developer myself, your stance towards your design partners is clearly belligerent, or at least it comes off that way.

  • AyeshaM

    You’ve really broken it down, wonderful read.

    All these points add up to a strong company culture that allows itself to be steered by the ‘talent’ (not sure if that’s the word, maybe more like self-directed) it attracts.

    The needs of the bread-and-butter accounts often end up giving the steer. These companies basically pay otherwise intelligent staff to lower their standards to match their systems – you need a strong culture to avoid being dragged down by catering to these values. Plus you’re not helping them shift their thinking to make something better.

    If that steer and willingness to start from the people themselves isn’t there, no one benefits.

  • Adam Johnson

    To me, it is a lot less stressful to keep what you love as a hobby or a side gig as opposed to your every day profession. It ensures that you’ll always love it as opposed to the fleeting theory most cling to of “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life ” Fact is, that’s not possible and a company is not going to be all creatives and as this article proves, you’ll just go nuts. I’d rather continue to love my creative outlets than profit off of them or for them to be directly tied to anything work related and all that comes with that

  • Charm W

    I’ve worked an equal amount of time on both sides of the fence (in-house and agency) and can completely agree with most everything in this article. My view of the problem is the overall focus for the agency world – it’s either do mediocre work to keep money coming in or bat-shit crazy work to get industry-fuelled, self congratulatory awards to win more clients/raise the agency’s or individual’s profile/bolster one’s CV. The issue with both areas is they disregard actually connecting with what the public wants and how brand connection and advertising has profoundly changed for most “consumers”. I can’t remember EVER doing proper user testing on any microsites I worked on, even one’s with data entry elements – a stark difference to in-house where seemingly every pixel is exhaustively tested and improved to best give what the customer wants. The pendulum is definitely swinging to going to in-house and product development because those areas have a more direct relationship with the people engaging with creatives creations, and usually for much longer periods of time than most campaigns. The way forward will probably start with in-house teams forming into mini in-house agencies that take on some additional outside clients to help keep innovation and industry trends front and centre (like Jaguar UK did for a while), but overall, if the industry wants to survive, it needs to relearn how to make stuff and then figure out how thoughtful marketing and branding can serve it best.

  • rondostar

    Spot on, man. Everyone who runs an agency should use this article as a guide. Everyone that works in an agency should be nodding their heads to this. Brilliant work. Thank you!

  • Neil Watson

    I love how your article places the blame at everyone else’s door other than the poor, helpless (should that be hapless?) creatives.

    The trouble in agencies is the way that creatives often think they are not / cannot be involved in changing the way the agency behaves. “I just interpret the brief” – not my job – attitude is typical of what you find in the industry.

    It’s a creative industry, it should be lead by creatives. If you’re not leading, then stop complaining about your employer who is trying to lead – and trying to pay your wage. This is the easiest industry there is to start-up your own agency where you can make all the wrong decisions yourself.

    Yes, sometimes work comes in which isn’t what you dreamed you’d be working on when you were at college, but you now realise that you didn’t know as much as you thought you knew back then. You probably thought you’d be the next big thing too. Didn’t realise that dream? Whose fault is that?

    I think that people are responsible, and capable, of a lot more than they think they are – both negative and positive. Sometimes the culture of where you work can be overwhelmingly negative. If so, time to move on. A lot of the time you don’t realise how much you can contribute to the environment you are in. Sometimes you are as much of the problem as those around you.

    However, as someone involved in appeasing the client, the creative and the accountant I’d say, suck it up. If you think you can do better, then do it. Who’s stopping you?

    • andre fiorini

      Like any issue, there’s more than one side to this problem. Which in my opinion is inherent to any creative business.

      I gave up on agencies because I felt like if I was going to spend my nights and weekends at work, I might as well reap the rewards for my sacrifice. One that I was always aware of and that I always hoped would pay dividends in the future. I quit and moved back to where my roots were, and now I run a thriving motion design studio in Brazil. But I have to deal with things that I was never exposed to as a worker bee: having to be a likable but demanding leader, having to please a client who pays my bills (and therefore has the final word unless I’m willing to fire him, in which case there’s no final word to be had) and dealing with lots of people’s expectations and creative passions and frustrations. All I can say is that if someone thinks they can do it, go ahead and try. There’s no better time to do it than now: equipment is fairly cheap and easy to use, tutorials are free all over the web, there’s lots of young, hungry talent looking for a chance to shine, and design is finally recognized as a fundamental piece of any communication strategy. But man, it’s not easy. Once I faced the reality of owning a business, lots of my previous complaints and frustrations seemed misguided. I realized how much more involved I am with the work as an owner, in a way that far surpasses what I experienced as a worker bee. I work the same hours as I did before, rarely get my mind off all the projects and clients, and on top of that I have to pay pretty high bills while pleasing a lot of really talented and smart people with huge expectations and demands. All on the same unreasonable deadlines and on smaller budgets. Now I understand my ex-bosses and creative directors a lot better, to say the least. I don’t think they were always right, but at least I understand their mistakes and/or compliance with clients’ demands much, much better. And I appreciate their guidance, patience and effort a lot more also.

      My point is, both sides raise valid points, but I still think it is very important to go through the meat-grinder before opening a business. Sometimes you learn more from failure than from success, and being a worker bee teaches you a lot about hard-work ethic, discipline, being a team player and getting around all kinds of difficult clients, bosses, co-workers. Not to mention that it’s the only way to learn about one’s own limitations and qualities. It prepares you for bigger things, if you have that desire. But complaining is pointless and toxic. If your job sucks, find one that doesn’t. Try to make your voice heard and affect the people around you in a positive way. For yourself, for them, for the company and ultimately for the client/product. But as a creative, blaming other people (Creative directors, CFOs, clients, etc) for your shitty output is the least effective way to get to where you want to go. Let it go and find a way to do things you’re proud of. Be brave. Go to a small studio/agency. Open your own or invent your own brand/product line where you can apply all of your amazing ideas and solutions. But until you do that, you can’t really know for sure that you knew what you were talking about, can you? The time is now, and the market is practically begging for new leaders with a set of balls on them and great ideas to match. I did it and I can say I am happy about my choice. But I’m very humbled at the same time.

      • Charlie Tetro

        I love this. Thank you.

  • rachel

    Hi. I’m an author of the Design Industry Voices survey. I work in the industry. The report is a way of voicing the issues from the people who work within it. We stared it to take a hunch and a feel and turn it into a coherent voice that couldn’t be quibbled with. We’re just finalising the questions we want to ask this year. Its the fifth year we’ve run the survey. If you have any ideas please do get in touch rachel@designindustryvoices.com. And would you be interested in doing a drawing/infographic representing the findings when we get to that in december? Just a thought. Sorry if this is out of line. We just loved your article.

    • StefOnPointe

      I’m Stef and I’m a co-author of Design Industry Voices too. Ditto what Rachel said!

  • Trevor Linton

    Finding ways of expressing yourself creatively, convincing clients to go in a direction or persuading a team of the correct course of action requires more than a good idea but great communication skills, perfect execution, realistic understanding of technical implications, the ability to work in so many different tools and finally, a healthy understanding of others sense of self preservation, worth and passion.

    Being able to do all of this takes a talent most don’t have. While I put some responsibility on anyone who wants to do good work to push themselves to learn these “people” skills on their own, but I also agree management needs to take responsibility to foster these environments by listening closely to what people want/express and involving people in finding a solution. I can’t tell you how many times someone comes up with a solution in a silo and comes to a team with it and when the execution goes to shit because the inherent solution was wrong those who designed the solution in a silo are defensive, and those who executed on the solution are bitter.

    Rule #1 – Don’t ever do anything ever without understanding why you’re doing it and what problem you’re trying to solve.

    Rule #2 – Never stop learning. Ever. From people skills to new technologies. There are always ways of using these in new projects, even if its for something as boring as documentation.

    Rule #3 – Don’t be afraid of suggesting something that seems stupid. Best ideas i’ve ever had started out with an entire group of 20 people thinking “WTF IS HE TALKING ABOUT…”

    Rule #4 – I don’t know if these rules are any good so take it with a grain of salt.

  • Peter G

    Great article, Murat! Kudos to you mate.

    In my case I’m currently working on updating my portfolio site and it’s a mammoth project and it shouldn’t be. And that’s not me being a lazy designer. The fact is I work as a designer day in, day out yet I have barely anything portfolio worthy.

  • Peter G

    Great article, Murat! Kudos to you mate.

    In my case I’m currently working on updating my portfolio site and it’s a mammoth project and it shouldn’t be. And that’s not me being a lazy designer. The fact is I work as a designer day in, day out yet I have barely anything portfolio worthy.

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      Cheers!

      I had exactly the same problem, I left and started trawling through folders of design work only to realise that none of it was any good. I had more pitch work than projects.

      Now I just show my side-projects instead

  • Ting°

    Bang on.

    One addition:

    Putting your neck on the line to sell great work does not always work. When it does, it’s all worth it. It’s the reason why people pick this profession in the first place. It’s about the work. Everything else is academic. Imho.

  • Weave

    Brilliant and spot-on, although there ARE a few shops out there that are healthy and functional and creative. But they’re rarities.

    But working late = 9pm? I know more than a few places where working late = 2am or later. :/

    • http://www.treavioli.com/ Treavor Wagoner

      Yep. I remember working until 6am….

  • layne

    dead on!

    And I agree with Weave below. I have worked in every type of innovational company, getting out on time is a luxury. If you are in the middle of banging something out, the last you want to do is checkout at 6pm.

  • Ivan Ayliffe

    I quit my job to start a cult in May 2012. Never looked back.

  • Pedro

    Here at Brazil, working 3 days and sleeping at the agency is just standard. Thats why i quit.

  • Cristiano Siqueira

    perfect!

  • alvincrespo

    This pretty much sums up my thoughts on Advertising. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Ram

    Epic article.

  • Jim Panze

    All you agency bitches do is complain, my monitor is too small, the work isn’t challenging, my boss doesn’t notice me, wahhhhh. Welcome to the real world children, and if you hate is so much stop whining and start your own agency, make it all the things you dream of. Oh right, you don’t have the balls to do that so you will continue working in an industry you despise and complaining about it because you are weak. All of you are weak and will continue being stepped on until you step up.

    • Ivan Ayliffe

      Trolling works better when it’s more subtle.

    • Joe Reilly

      Jim is clearly an “agency guy” who is offended by the truth of this article. The article is not about people complaining, its about squandering any life and creativity in favor of a massive paycheck, which most agencies are doing now and which is why the lifespan of employees at these agencies are only a few years at best before they realize and leave.

      • DamienSan

        As much as I hate this system, he’s right in a sense: if everybody had the balls to quit, those agencies couldn’t continue that way.

        In my case, I quitted, but I also agree with his opinion which is: you work there and don’t do anything to improve your conditions, just shut up.

        Too much people are always complaining and doing nothing.

        • Joe Reilly

          You are right, and I am one like yourself who constantly realizes and moves on to another place and I do see many who just resign to the prison-like systems for years with no complaints, but the problem is then there is are very few places to really find that arent like this to run to.

  • Kristin Anderson

    It
    is really story. I am sure some people know at lot of this. pmp certification requirements

  • Jarrad

    nice

  • thatgirlinnewyork

    “…bloated layers of account management…”
    Where are you working? I think you’re confusing account management with “holding company (non)functionaries.”

  • Antti Kupila

    Hah. So true. Not sure if i should laugh or cry. And don’t get me started on ATL/BTL or other bullshit acronyms that don’t mean anything. You saying fancy words won’t make you smarter.

  • http://www.rickkuipers.com/ Rick Kuipers

    Wow, this is exactly what I’m going through. I have a job interview Wednesday to leave this company and hope for a better one.

  • Mark Schefermann

    Brilliant article, I think anyone who has ever worked in an agency will be able to relate to this article.

  • Micky London

    Great article…
    Motivational and realatable.

  • James King

    Having worked at one of the top Interface Design agencies (working directly on UI for telecoms clients and mobile banking apps) and then moving across to a more “traditional” agency to “reinvigorate and restructure our Digital offering”, I was constantly shocked, surprised and awe-struck by the institutionalised challenge that these agencies face.

    It’s very difficult for a C-suite that is used to their industry working in a very certain sort of way to first comprehend, and secondly (and most importantly) have the level of trust and faith needed to relinquish structural (and this is both in terms of internal process and recruitment) control to those that do understand the evolving advertising/design landscape.

    There are certain digital executions that can still fit into the old model. Display ads, simple campaign microsites, basic campaign apps, and ad agencies will cling onto this work and charge for “wireframing” etc, however ask them to truly innovate, and conceptualize, design and build multi-platform, trans-media, action orientated service experiences (bloody hell that’s sounds jargon-y but hopefully you know what I mean…!) and most agencies just aren’t set up to operate like that.

    That’s not some damning critique of the talent in agencies. There are still hugely capable creatives at many of these houses, it’s just that those in charge of creating an environment and process that allows these creatives to express themselves in executions that are concurrently innovative, creative and (importantly) solve a true business problem.

    It’s easier to start from scratch than strip out the old, cancerous heart that used to power some incredibly powerful, beautiful work that just doesn’t, well, “work” anymore.

    In terms of the current landscape, look to some of the traditional “consulting houses” for inspiration. Accenture have just embarked on a relatively ambitious acquisition strategy that will allow them to own the entire consultation, development, creation and distribution funnel. And they haven’t gone near any “ad” agencies, digital or otherwise.

    Compare that with the WPP/Publicis merger that, in my humble opinion, achieves nothing other than creating an even more confused (although hugely billable” behemoth.

    If I were a brand, I know who I’d go to…and creatives should do the same IMO.

  • Helen Drew

    I worked in big agencies for ten years – the first week I stepped foot in one I realized they were full of shit. The expectation to work ridiculous hours – and what for!!
    Finally I left and got myself one small client – which has now turned into about 10 clients, not one has ever left… they come to me when they hate what their fancy pants agencies are charging and doing for them – and the bullshit stories they spin. I now earn 3 times the salary i could in an agency. I take at least 6 weeks off a year. I never start work until 9.30 – I go to the beach every morning with my dog – stop to chat and have coffee with regulars. I finish work around 4pm. My clients know my boundaries – I’m in control and efficient with my time. Get out, get off your arse, and get your own clients!

  • Phill Buckland

    Can relate to this on such a monstrous scale I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    Highly tempted to send this to the boss tomorrow on my last day at current agency.

  • Esther Kim

    Spot on!!! Crazy thing is Martin Sorrel has bought the agency I’m at but…they still need to take a read and take some notes.

  • Edgar Andres Zorrilla

    brilliant!

  • iszi

    Spot on!

  • Joseph Matt

    Here in NYC 90% of this is true. But from the development side It’s the small boutique firms that keep you working until god knows when and the large agencies have civilized hours, 10-6.
    Also, The large firms here have much much better benefits and salaries. The boutique firms are where the second you take one day off their watching you like a hawk. Drooling over the next ‘healthy’ 20-something they can replace you with. And god forbid you actually use your minimized vacation days in the small firms. It’s all a big sh**** game.

  • thelaister

    killed it but left off uncompetitive salary

  • Tom Finnery

    Pathetic. All you “A” players out there that work for the man who gives you no credit (every last loser who can “relate” to this article) should grow up. You want to make the system work differently, go build it on your own. Inspiration is for whimps. Do good work and move on if your boss sucks – its that simple. Take some responsibility for your life. Mommy and daddy aren’t hear to take care of you, although they probably help with your rent.

  • Tom Brinkkemper

    Awesome post, Especially after just leaving an agency dealing with some of these issues.

  • Joe_Friedlein

    I expect to get shot down by what I am about to say, and have to confess a vested interest in your post as I founded http://www.browsermedia.co.uk and am therefore one of the agency managers that you don’t like, but I can’t help but feel that you sound like a spoilt child.

    I do get a lot of your points and can absolutely appreciate a lot of the issues that you correctly raise, but JFK’s immortal words of 1961 are shouting at me, but I would change it to:

    “Ask not what your agency can do for you – ask what you can do for your agency”

    The underlying message in your post is that you want more money, equity and more interesting work. There is nothing wrong with that but why is that purely the responsibility of the management to spoon feed it to you? Why can you not take up the challenge of helping generate that for the greater good of the agency? Is it really just about you?

    Managing any business is lonely. I have spent many sleepless nights worrying about how to attract, motivate and retain the best staff for our agency and work desperately hard to create an environment in which individual contribution is both recognised and rewarded, but it is very hard to get it right ALL of the time.

    You want the agency to innovate? That is excellent. It would be even more excellent to assume some responsibility to drive that forward and not just wait for someone else to do it for you.

    You only want the best work? I would agree with that but you simply have to take the rough with the smooth and the grim fact is that a vast percentage of any work is dull and uninspiring. Again, why can you not help solve the problem by going out looking for such work and introducing it to the agency?

    Until you have owned / managed an agency, I just don’t think you can appreciate the stress that overheads (which are mainly salaries for agencies) bring and the need to keep on feeding mouths. Perhaps you would be prepared to accept a salary based on a profit share of each project you work on? It may sound appealing but what will you do when there is no profit and you still have your mortgage to pay?

    I don’t mean to be antagonistic but the faster that everyone starts to think of the agency, rather than themselves, the faster agencies will thrive and the negativity will evaporate.

    Personally, I blame Big Brother (the TV programme, not the Orwellian one!) as it has created a culture where everyone wants to be a celebrity and get paid fortunes to do nothing of any worth. It amazes me how many young people I have interviewed over the years who expect the world but don’t want to have to lift a finger to get it.

    This is especially true for responsibility. Your management have assumed the responsibility for paying your wage. Of course mistakes will be made, and nowhere is perfect, but you should try to share that responsibility and help improve agency life. That will help you and it will help others.

    Believe me, as an employer I look for individuals who share the bigger picture and the passion to create something epic. The whingers who only really care about their own lot are welcome to trot on and go freelance.

    Bring on the abuse, but I couldn’t resist the bait.

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      Hey Joe,

      Thanks for the comment.

      As someone who’s tried to do all the things you said over the last few years and also watched others attempt it, I think I’m in a good place to answer.

      In fact I wrote a post about trying to do what you described and look what happened:

      http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/2012/02/just-make-stuff/

      You assumes that agency managers are just sitting there, waiting to say yes to innovative things.

      The reality? Nothing like this. This doesn’t happen.

      But are we trying? Yes.

      It’s in our nature to push forward and have ideas. Ask any creatives/dev how many side-projects they have going at home. I bet the majority.

      So that’s happening right now, right this second – What are these agencies doing to encourage and cultivate those ideas for their benefit?

      There’s only so many times you can try and introduce new ideas into the place you work before it becomes a complete waste of time and energy.

      You realise that there’s zero incentive keep trying. If anyone comes up with a good idea whilst in a agency I just tell them to grab a bored dev in the company and make it themselves. It’s happening more and more.

      Agencies have a lack of understanding what motivates their creative staff. Do you truely understand the people who create the work that brings in money for your business?

      If you did then you wouldn’t have so many sleepness nights I’d bet.

      This isn’t a attack on you but your comment says you’re resigned to accepting the vast percentage of any work is dull – that attitude speaks volumes. How can you expect to retain talented staff when you yourself know that the work you’re doing is dull?

      My main point is – we’re trying to change you, but you’re not listening.

      • Joe_Friedlein

        Hi Murat,

        Thanks for the response.

        I am torn as I do genuinely agree with the theory of what you are saying and examples such as the snowglobe prove that there are people trying to make a difference but not being listened to, so I am not totally disagreeing with you.

        I also admit that there are agencies where things just aren’t right and they deserve to see their talent leave. It would be a shame to tarnish all agencies with the same brush though.

        I haven’t given up on life, at all, but am long enough in the tooth to know that you just can’t expect every second of every minute of your working life to be the utopia that we all want. I just don’t believe that this exists for any role, in any profession. Some are certainly better than others and I think that the creative community has it better than most so we mustn’t complain, but there are frustrations with any role.

        I am very open about the more tedious aspects of what we do and try to explain the reality in interviews. This is really what keeps me awake at night, the worry about asking talented people to do dull things – I feel guilty doing it but hope that explaining the bigger picture and putting the particular tasks in the context of a greater good can help people overcome the moments of tedium.

        You end with “we’re trying to change you, but you’re not listening.”. For the sake of clarity, what is it EXACTLY that you want? What should managers do and what does the perfect agency look like?

        If it is the freedom to work on the perfect project on a daily basis, who is going to pay your salary? It is client work that pays all our bills.

        Not all clients are glamorous and some work is more boring than others. The challenge is to seek enjoyment / satisfaction from helping business achieve their objectives. Those objectives will almost always have a commercial bias and there will be a need to demonstrate value, even if it isn’t ground breaking from a creative standpoint.

        I have worked at a number of organisations in the past, from monsters like BT (hated it) to very small, agile start ups (loved it). The grim truth is that the start ups have all gone, but BT is still there.

        I have two young children and a mortgage to pay, so I have to think about the long term rather than a couple of years spending someone else’s money on beanbags and fun (but not commercially viable) projects.

        I want to create a business which will ride out any storms that come our way and give our staff the confidence to enjoy life outside work knowing that they have financial security. I can only do this by building security into the work that we do and that does involve projects of varying degrees of creative challenge.

        I am, however, brutally honest about this when interviewing and am apologetic about the less stimulating aspects of the daily life at the agency. I therefore hope that nobody is deceived and nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing the team grow and thrive as a team. We are in it together and will help each other out when we need to.

        You may call it a shitty little agency, but we are building ‘our’ agency. I hope that this spirit will keep those who share the passion. It isn’t about now, what am I working on this second. It is about what are we working towards. For me, that defines a team player.

        I fully appreciate that not everyone is a team player and respect everyone’s right to make that decision, but I will come back to the JFK analogy – I really do believe that the world would be a happier place if we were all a bit more altruistic.

        Less ‘me, me, me’ and more ‘us, us, us’.

        • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

          I read this excellent write up by the CEO of Fantasty Interactive.

          It shows progressive thinking, reading it makes me want to work there. Judging by the brilliant projects and experiments they do, it’s working.

          http://blog.f-i.com/how-award-winning-work-can-make-or-break-you/

          “It’s important to pick and choose your clients carefully. You should always go into engagements knowing how much you can invest operationally and what the benefits of that investment will yield (e.g. awards, recognition, future business opportunities). There have been countless award-winning projects done at Fi that required this sacrifice. Starbreeze, Conspiracy Games, Fido, Dotu were all projects in Fi’s beginning that were executed at a financial loss. However the losses were taken intentionally to facilitate innovation and high quality launches that led to industry recognition. ”

          It will basically come down to what you believe in. The culture of your agency will be a reflection of that.

          FI believes that success requires sacrifice (and risk). They put quality above money. I’m sure they have families and commitments too.

          What you see is that mindset reflected in their work. The same applies to Made By Many and Teehan+Lax, the mindset of the founders influnences the entire business.

          Made By Many NEVER pitch creative work

          http://madebymany.com/blog/we-are-five-years-old-here-is-what-we-learnt

          The pressure to show creative work at pitches is huge, I love that they stick to their guns and never do it. Imagine the pressure on the business and how brave it is to never fold. This approach could have massive implications (never winning work = closing the agency) but look at the results, hugely respected with amazing clients and projects.

          Teehan+lax got rid of their hourly rate

          http://www.teehanlax.com/blog/why-we-are-getting-rid-of-our-hourly-rate/

          Another brave move that pushes the industry forward. Just look at their work, they designed Medium.

          They are on another level. Their bravery is rewarded by talent + clients. They have a mixture of client work and own-ip projects. Pretty much everything that comes out of T+L labs gets picked up by tech blogs, sending their profile even higher.

          • Joe_Friedlein

            Hi Murat,

            Inspiring reading, no doubt about that, and something to aim for but there are hints in there that show that it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

            “But getting on this leaderboard requires serious investment. Between 1999 and 2003, Fi made $0.”

            Firstly, ‘making $0′ could mean making $0 profit (but salaries and bills were paid, so the sacrifice is simply a case of reinvesting all profit, which is a great move for the long term health of an agency). I doubt they billed $0?

            Secondly, there is an admission that there was investment. Somebody was paying the bills. Not all agencies have that luxury, but would you suggest that you should only work for agencies with a bulging bank account?

            “Starbreeze, Conspiracy Games, Fido, Dotu were all projects in Fi’s beginning that were executed at a financial loss. However the losses were taken intentionally to facilitate innovation and high quality launches that led to industry recognition”

            Again, this is a very familiar story and I suspect that every agency takes on projects that are not financially sensible in the short term in order to build a better agency in the long term. What is not clear from that statement is whether there were other, less glamorous, projects that acted as cash cows that funded the glory projects. This is what I meant by taking the rough with the smooth – accept that not every waking hour will be orgasmic.

            “Does the project budget allow for the necessary time and allocation to do the best work?”

            Is that not the clearest signal that the commercial considerations for any project are still key to their success? Everyone wants to do interesting work and have the freedom to spend time pushing boundaries rather than churning out the mundane, but budgets are budgets and it is very rare for an agency to simply refuse all projects that don’t have a bit of a slush fund to allow for a generous amount of thinking time. Again, back to taking the rough with the smooth.

            “FI believes that success requires sacrifice (and risk). They put quality above money. I’m sure they have families and commitments too.”

            I absolutely agree that success requires risk and sacrifice. I would also support the aspiration for quality over money. That is all fine until you need to pay your staff, taxes, rates, printing costs, insurance premiums, IT costs, etc. etc.

            I don’t feel as though you have really answered my question about what it is that you really want (unless the FI example is your ideal?), so I will ask another very simple question:

            Would you be prepared to work for no payment if there was the guarantee that you only worked on the most exciting projects and would have your name in flashing lights as an acknowledgement for your great work?

            If not, why not? That is essentially what you are asking agencies to do for you?

            I would be really interested to hear your response to that question.

            I probably sound like a grumpy old bean counter. Believe me, I would love to live a world in which we can all be selective about every single project and this is a goal that we have at our agency, but I just don’t think that the realities of life can accomodate that all the time.

            Does that mean that I have given up? Absolutely not, nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing the team getting really stuck in with projects that clearly interest them and give them a deeper satisfaction than just getting a pay slip at the end of the month. My priority, however, has to be making sure that the pay slip will be there this month, next month and the months thereafter.

            That can feel like quite a responsibility at times and is no doubt the reason that I have responded to your original post. I do agree with a lot of your points and we should all work towards creating a positive working environment. I don’t know what your life plans are, but you should start your own agency, employ people and have a read of your post in 5yrs time to see if your perspective has changed. It would be fascinating.

            Cheers,

            Joe

            • http://helikopta.com Bill Addison

              Hey Joe, I work for a small studio managing local and remote teams and wanted to say I couldn’t agree more with your comments. Thanks for taking the time to post here.

              I feel like there are many disillusioned, young designers/developers led astray by lavish articles on how to run a successful studio or how much better it would be to work at a startup when the reality is they’ll meet the same challenges in any workplace environment.

              Even working at a company like Facebook would require communication skills and navigating workplace politics. Advice to young designers/developers: read fewer blogs, or take them with a grain of salt, and focus more on building things or creating positive connections with people.

              • Joe_Friedlein

                Hi Bill,

                Thanks for the comment and support!

                Oddly enough, I came across http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/generation-y-unhappy_b_3930620.html this afternoon which resonates with my thoughts on all the above.

                I am not the only one to be a grumpy old man! :-)

                • http://helikopta.com Bill Addison

                  wow, that article is gold! Thanks for sending through.

                  • Mark Knight

                    Typical response from two brainwashed business men in suits. These are the same two guys who will be scratching their heads at a corporate office urinal wondering why all their talent left to make money for someone else. You’re missing the overall point, people are leaving to do it THEMSELVES, away from the agency model. Why should they stick around? Why would anyone start their own “agency” now when there are obviously better options? Would you want to work with someone who cant strive to be better in an environment that is not conducive to that? And you are missing the overall point of the Huff Post article too. They don’t sum it up by saying striving for personal growth is synonymous with ungrateful yuppie. Maybe you should also rephrase to: “Read fewer blogs…unless I say they are GOLD!”

                    • http://helikopta.com Bill Addison

                      Mark, I can’t say I understand your point. Is it that junior designers/developers are fed up with the treatment of large agencies and are therefore leaving to become freelancers or start their own businesses? And so agencies should watch out because soon they’ll have no one to work for them?

                      I’m a designer/developer working at a small studio (not an agency) managing a small team and I’m very happy here (7 years with the same team).

                      I’ve worked my way up with startups and various other types of clients teaching myself the latest web techniques along the way to stay competitive. That doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced challenging moments with clients, coworkers and company politics as well.

                      The point as I see it personally is: where some people complain, others see a challenge to be overcome. And maybe the more we focus on overcoming these challenges, the better off we’ll be both personally and professionally. That’s my personal experience anyway. I’m not trying to put anyone down and I’m sorry if my comment offended you. Remember I’m in the same boat as you: gen-y designer/developer.

                    • http://uk.linkedin.com/in/grahamruddick GrahamRuddick

                      Mark

                      I love the arrogance of the ‘brainwashed businessmen in suits’ comment, especially given that from what both Joe and Bill have said about themselves it’s pretty clear that they are neither.

                      Nobody is saying that people shouldn’t go out and do it themselves. In fact I’d wager that every major agency in the world started with two or three disgruntled guys leaving somewhere else and starting themselves.

                      But they have all discovered the same things. As soon as you get a bit successful, it’s almost impossible to service a full range of client requirements on your own, so you have to get in people who have skills you don’t have. As soon as you start billing people, you get people who don’t pay or pay slowly and you need to find support functions to alleviate that problem. As soon as you get into bigger projects you need someone to manage and co-ordinate what’s happening. As soon as you have a number of people you need someone to help manage the HR piece.

                      Before long – if you’re successful – you have something that you may not call an agency, but has all the functions of an agency. That is how agencies are created and grow. Sometimes some agencies grow up that have a fundamentally different outlook – but rarely for long.

                      The bread and butter work of designing half page flyers for boring B2B business, of creating websites for esoteric parts of the Financial Services industry or doing social media monitoring for brands that, quite frankly, nobody is talking about, is what pays the bills. Those bills are inevitable. Unless you’re still living rent free with your mother and do all your work on a computer bought by over indulgent parents as a Christmas present. (See I can do sweeping and horrible generalisations too)

                      I am not at all sure what the ‘obviously better’ options might be. Perhaps you can expand on that?

                      Everybody wants to do cool stuff. Everybody wants to do cool stuff all the time. But as Joe has mentioned, once you are responsible for a team, you become responsible for all the team, all the time. He has acknowledged the core reality that some stuff is boring. He also is willing to work really hard on reducing that impact as much as he can.

                      The major point here is that nobody is entitled to anything. What creates the ‘right’ to work on big exciting projects is working on small exciting projects (both as individuals and agencies) What gives the right to work on small exciting projects is hard work and learning the craft through the ‘boring’ stuff. (indeed what better preparation can you have than doing brilliant creative thinking on a product or campaign would be, otherwise, hugely tedious?

                      Those two guys in suits you mentioned. They are the ones who own high value equity stakes in valuable companies.

                    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

                      “Learning the craft” – Agencies are fast becoming the place where you work before you get your first real design job.

                      You learn by being challenged, you learn by working with people better than you, you don’t learn by doing tedious work.

                    • http://uk.linkedin.com/in/grahamruddick GrahamRuddick

                      I didn’t say that. I said that the best learning comes from doing brilliant work on difficult boring projects. That would seem to me to be the perfect definition of ‘challenging’.

                    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

                      Hmm not to me (i doubt any many designers would agree). A boring project is boring because it’s not a challenge and I’ve learnt nothing. See point #2

                      Even if I wanted to do brilliant work on the project – great work takes extra time – extra time = extra money. If I need extra time to make a sweeter experience, the client has to increase their budget, etc etc, someone has to sign that off, most of the time they don’t.

                    • http://uk.linkedin.com/in/grahamruddick GrahamRuddick

                      And there we get the split.

                      If you want to be an artist, that’s fine. Take as much time as you like, do truly brilliant work and sell it when and where you can.

                      If you want to be a commercial designer (drawing a salary, and part of a bigger team) then work within the time/budget constraints imposed. Be aware that within the agency those constraints are fact, but also that for the client the time/budgets that they impose are part of their commercial imperative.

                      This fact doesn’t change when you are out on your own – although of course you have the ability to choose both the work you take on and how much time you dedicate to it. But in the end commercial realities apply equally to the individual as to the member of a team.

                      My definition of brilliant work is of doing something different and remarkable, but doing it on time and on budget.

                    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

                      But I can see from your profile that you’re not a designer (i could tell from your responses), so your definition of what brilliant work isn’t the same as the people who do the work.

                      And don’t you think that’s critical? You’re not the one who has to build a portfolio of work.

                      It’s not about doing ‘cool’ work, it’s about doing work that has purpose and solves problems. It’s about getting better at what you do, it’s about learning skills.

                      This can come from being a freelancer yes, but can also come from agencies and companies who ‘get it’ (have you see what Teehan+Lax do?).

                    • Dave Kirven

                      So what you’re saying Murat is that agency owners should just go for the ‘good stuff’. I will happily go do that as long as you are happy to accept that with your thinking everyone will be going for the same ‘good stuff’ as me and there is a chance we may lose out to someone elses ‘better stuff’ and that we can’t pay your salary this month.

                      We are all striving for that one amazing project that will launch us into hyperspace and believe me, if you managed to come up with that concept I would shout your name from the rooftops. But until it comes we still have to pay you.

                      It was mentioned earlier that you can’t polish a turd…
                      …but you can roll it in glitter :)

          • Brigham Hugo

            I used to work at Fi, they have an incredible reputation as the work they produce (that they actively promote) is of high quality. However, you should check out their glass door profile (http://www.glassdoor.com/Overview/Working-at-Fantasy-Interactive-EI_IE612249.11,30.htm), it safe to say they are rotten on the inside. The culture is not their, and with a high staff turnover it is really just like the ad agencies described in this blog post. An interesting point is, they have never had a repeat client, and I think that speaks volumes.

    • retroafro

      I don’t think agencies really realize just how much the underlings give to the agency already, for very little return and NO loyalty. that’s the underlying issue. if an agency showed a vested interest in its employees it might get somewhere. But the culture now is employees are expendable and seats can be filled on a whim. Ultimately agencies time and again throw their people under the bus for the sake of the client, who frankly..aren’t trained in the the arts as we are. I think employees are just as important as the customer — if they’re not happy, they leave. You want to remain profitable? The agency keeps making things that people want. Want to retain talent? Make the workplace a place that talented people want to be. Once you cut through the defeatist attitudes, it’s really easy.

  • disqus_1kAOkV8Rh1

    umm weren’t agencies dead sometime back….I’ve been on the client side working for top brands in the last 10 years…pls be aware most big firms “have to” give the shitty work to agencies becos of old legacy contracts that need to be retained….everyone sees through the shit work/inflated rates that you guys send us…..most clients r “nice” to u cos ur work doesn’t matter.
    good for u that u got ur epiphany….kids r running better start ups and earning more

  • Chaucer Barnes

    I love this.

    So true, especially the first bit about incentives.

    Odd that the conclusion you would land on seems to hover around recruitment and retention, instead of fresher ideas on how agencies can retool to swim with the current: work in better stride with evolving trends in human resources and procurement: where, according to you, entrepreneurship is easier, more prevalent, and more preferred by coveted talent across a number of disciplines.

    It begs the question: If we know the conventional agency game is rigged for waste/billable hours, or simply the numbing repetition of fetish, and thus the problems you outline persist and deepen, seems like the more pressing question agencies should be asking is “how do we create revenue opps tied not to the bloat of bodies, but the purity of ideas?”

    Which in turn, begs this question: “how can I tap these ever-expanding pools of unhinged creative talent, instead of constantly trying to wall them in?”
    That would inspire us all to imagine a true performance-based marketplace for creative talent: jump ball scenarios, where talent can balance their desires for their books against their desire to sell something.

    And then the agency’s not stuck holding the bag when people are phoning in work because they’re burned, or not exactly right for a given project, or a bad hire, or whatever.
    Hell, even solves the issue of equipment: buy whatever you want if you’re talented enough to recoup, right?

    The one thing it doesn’t solve for is your point about credit…but that’s a (legitimate) technical challenge, not a fundamental one.

    While i don’t disagree with any of your points per se, if you’re addressing this to agency heads in hopes that it will inspire action, I’d suggest you…
    …and you’re gonna hate me for this…
    …think bigger.

  • Daniel Diggle

    I joined the agency glue London – my first job – back in 06. They were the most concentrated group of A grade talent that you could ever imagine. Everyone there was impassioned and doing innovative work ( http://creativity-online.com/work/mini-ave-a-word/6784 ) that even today is imitated – they were even doing rich mobile experiences before most people knew what that meant.

    I left after a year because I wanted to move onto broader work, but it was many years before I found myself at another company ( Stinkdigital ) that could match the energy and creativity of glue. The point of this reference is that glue London became glueIsobar, became Isobar and its Isobar who I think you are mostly referencing in this article.

    It was a slow death but over the years I could see old workmates steadily exiting the glue/glueIsobar stable – and more tellingly – the innovation in their work became less apparent.

    There can be a lot of intersecting reasons behind the decline of a once vibrant and inspiring company, but through the lens of a naive designer in his first job, I was always perplexed by the dynamic between the account handlers and the design and production departments. It quite often *felt* like ‘us’ against ‘them’, as if the design department needed to do battle against our own accounts people to reach the clients eyes and ears. I’ve not come across this type of environment at any agency since.

    glue did have a strong sense of self during my time there, I remember them releasing a major telecoms client because the client wasn’t willing to do innovative work. It was a lot of money to let go, but it was the right thing to do.

    The transition from an indie to being absorbed into Isobar, the mismanaged dynamics between creative and accounts, the slow bleed of creative talent, the loss of key figureheads… to my mind, these are some of the main points contributing to why ‘talented creatives are leaving your shitty agency’. But I also think its simply the life cycle of every agency or indie that ‘goes big’.

    Those agencies that do manage to keep up appearances are often those that accept that once you’re big you can’t keep the young creative talent and so you start to make use of production companies who can foster and attract the very best.

    Again, just my personal view and experience as a designer who worked at a once spectacular agency that lost its momentum over the years and faded away.

  • Paul Balaam

    A great post! I’ve read each reply and can clearly see the frustration from both sides of the fence.

    Neither agency owners, or the people they employ, can have it all their own way.

    Each agency has it’s own commercial reality to fulfill, but at the same time, the future of the agency is firmly in the hands of its people.

    A balance therefore, has to be struck.

    Agency owners – good people should be rewarded well for their part in manifesting the business exactly as intended. In the best creative outfits, the people are liberated; never constrained. And they’re empowered to make their own decisions. Problem is, so few agency owners make the time to work on their people and the culture, and even fewer are able to openly share the agency’s strategic objective or ambition.

    Less that 15% of an agency owner’s time is concentrated on people and the systems and processes for nurturing talent, innovation and opportunity. That’s probably the single biggest contributor to not only high staff turnover, but to diminished creative output, client losses, and reduced margins.

    You owe it to your people, and your agency, to make more time. You’ll realise greater options and opportunities if you share the burden with your team.

    Designers/account managers – its unreasonable to expect that your agency should offer an environment where innovation, opportunity and great client briefs are the order on the day. Most agency revenue is realised at production stage, and inevitably, that aspect will always play a major part of agency life – for both creatives and client managers alike.

    Agencies are full of people with mixed attitudes to work and their relationship with it. Some will be unswervingly patriotic, others more mercenary – some will accept the way things are, others will constantly strive for change.

    The important thing is what matters to ‘you’ and whether or not your agency can offer enough opportunity, stimulation, responsibility and accountability in enough measure? Whilst ‘delivering’ for your agency – and that might include a fair helping of the more mundane kind of work you dislike – there has to be a commitment to you, on behalf of the agency, to help you grow and develop as an individual. If no such agreement exists, or never manifests itself, then it’s up to you to either accept the culture, try to do something to change it, or leave.

    There are agencies out there that have developed good cultures, have a low turn over of people, and attract good clients because of the quality of creative output their cultures afford. They might be in their minority, but they do exist.

    In my opinion, the successful agencies of tomorrow need to adapt and change now.

    More needs to be done by owners to shift the day-to-day operational challenges and responsibilities to those they employ. Accountability and the freedom to innovate, improve, and orchestrate, needs to shifted from the center to those that are closest to the clients and the problems they face. And more attention should be focused on long-term strategic development, financial control, succession planning and employee engagement.

    If you’re an employee, then you must push for change. You must argue the case for dedicated time to ‘think’ – about the clients you serve, the things that matter to you, and you’re own personal development. But you must deliver once given the opportunity.

    I believe that working in a successful creative business is just about the best job you can have. When great ideas come together, anything can happen. But it’s a two way street – owners and employees need to come together to affect change.

    It really is the only way forward.

    • Joe_Friedlein

      Awesome answer!

  • Paul Balaam

    A great post! I’ve read each reply and can clearly see the frustration from both sides of the fence.

    Neither agency owners, or the people they employ, can have it all their own way.

    Each agency has it’s own commercial reality to fulfill, but at the same time, the future of the agency is firmly in the hands of its people.

    A balance therefore, has to be struck.

    Agency owners – good people should be rewarded well for their part in manifesting the business exactly as intended. In the best creative outfits, the people are liberated; never constrained. And they’re empowered to make their own decisions. Problem is, so few agency owners make the time to work on their people and the culture, and even fewer are able to openly share the agency’s strategic objective or ambition.

    Less that 15% of an agency owner’s time is concentrated on people and the systems and processes for nurturing talent, innovation and opportunity. That’s probably the single biggest contributor to not only high staff turnover, but to diminished creative output, client losses, and reduced margins.

    You owe it to your people, and your agency, to make more time. You’ll realise greater options and opportunities if you share the burden with your team.

    Designers/account managers – its unreasonable to expect that your agency should offer an environment where innovation, opportunity and great client briefs are the order on the day. Most agency revenue is realised at production stage, and inevitably, that aspect will always play a major part of agency life – for both creatives and client managers alike.

    Agencies are full of people with mixed attitudes to work and their relationship with it. Some will be unswervingly patriotic, others more mercenary – some will accept the way things are, others will constantly strive for change.

    The important thing is what matters to ‘you’ and whether or not your agency can offer enough opportunity, stimulation, responsibility and accountability in enough measure? Whilst ‘delivering’ for your agency – and that might include a fair helping of the more mundane kind of work you dislike – there has to be a commitment to you, on behalf of the agency, to help you grow and develop as an individual. If no such agreement exists, or never manifests itself, then it’s up to you to either accept the culture, try to do something to change it, or leave.

    There are agencies out there that have developed good cultures, have a low turn over of people, and attract good clients because of the quality of creative output their cultures afford. They might be in their minority, but they do exist.

    In my opinion, the successful agencies of tomorrow need to adapt and change now.

    More needs to be done by owners to shift the day-to-day operational challenges and responsibilities to those they employ. Accountability and the freedom to innovate, improve, and orchestrate, needs to shifted from the center to those that are closest to the clients and the problems they face. And more attention should be focused on long-term strategic development, financial control, succession planning and employee engagement.

    If you’re an employee, then you must push for change. You must argue the case for dedicated time to ‘think’ – about the clients you serve, the things that matter to you, and you’re own personal development. But you must deliver once given the opportunity.

    I believe that working in a successful creative business is just about the best job you can have. When great ideas come together, anything can happen. But it’s a two way street – owners and employees need to come together to affect change.

    It really is the only way forward.

  • Ricardo Maluf Gardolinski

    I don’t know about any other countries, but while reading your article I forgot you were talking about London agencies and thought you were talking about BRAZILIAN agencies.. Over the last decade I’ve worked on several advertising agencies and all of them was the same, with the same problems you wrote about, and some ever worse…

    This year I’ve made a decision… they’ve finally won, I’m leaving this shitty market and looking for a new job on a startup, or as an entrepreneur, or something like that.. Sad :(

    • Eduardo Aqui

      This is true for México’s agencies too. The lack of interest on the final user and customers never brings space for innovation. That’s the reason why I left my job and started my own company. Don’t get sad. This is a growth opportunity.

  • Jason

    Wow. You have hit the nail so hard on the fucking head its almost creepy!

  • Cleo

    I think this is a great article, but it would be great to see less of the suit bashing. Believe me it is not only creatives or designers who feel this way about the current state of the industry. I am a suit who has moved from many years at pure play digital agencies to an ad agency and I am constantly astounded at the absolute lack of understanding of and progression within the world we now live in. And I for one fight every day to get people enough time to do their jobs properly. Suffice to say that this is not a long term career move.

  • http://www.mathewporter.co.uk/ Mathew Porter

    I have experienced many things in this article at agencies and when in house…. the key thing for me which any company should do is look after good staff and look to get good staff in the first place whilst allowing and supporting their development.

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      Totally agree, I didn’t add it to the post but I get lots of friends complaining about broken promises of skills training and time to learn. “When things are bit quieter” or “next quarter” is often the excuse

  • SEOsherlock

    Beautifully spot on post, from someone who’s been in the online marketing industry for 5 years. The proof of which is in the massive outreach this post has achieved.
    Majority of this applies to all agency types not just creative agencies.

  • Sarah Doery

    I don’t believe agency marketing exists in the same way it did 10 years ago, with many of the ‘big ad shops’ now being outsourced production for client ideas. Yet they are reluctant to accept this fact. As someone who had enough of all the above, and a suit, I left and started my own digital and mobile offering. We work on products not gimmicks, and focus on real life users. And the number of agency refugees at CYCLONE shows that many of us feel the same way. Nicely put.

  • Anthony Prior

    Great article and well done for being totally honest and open about how you feel. Going by some peoples comments apparently thats not allowed.

    Reading this and also some of the arguments against from agency owners has made me decide that i should show this to my boss and sit down and work out how we can grow, evolve and do all of the exciting work that inspires us.

  • Mitchell Gumbley

    You can measure the validity of your article by the strength of the reactions it has garnered… nice one, Murat!

    Having joined the industry as a ‘young Turk’, seen the Third Wave of agencies (and the Fourth), the Desktop revolution, the advent of digital and the recent explosion of Mobile onto the communication landscape, the truth of what your saying rings out… and ever has it been so.

    After all those years, all the experiences, witnessing all the changes and developments as I shinnied up the greasy pole, I strongly believe the only way to prevent the ‘brain drain’ on A-Grade talent is to stay small and independent — which can be hard when success strikes (as all start-ups hope it does) and there’s the temptation to grow (as if, somehow, size is the only yardstick).

    As a creative leader, the best bit of advice I was given was “hire people who are more talented than you” — and I believe that still holds true today. Investing in the best around doesn’t rely on the ability to dangle huge bags of cash in front of people. Make the offer attractive in other ways.

    Firstly, give them a say — in what’s done, how it’s done and, if necessary, for who it’s done. A nice office is always good, but it doesn’t have to be flash — an environment can be developed and improved by more than expensive furniture and posh Post Code (often it’s the people themselves that add the most).

    Of course, you can demonstrate your own commitment to what you’re doing and the importance of their contribution by giving them the best tools to work with. When I first presented the idea of getting Macs into my agency, the MD at the time said I just wanted “a new toy’! It put us back, as a company, 2 years — 2 years our competitors had to steal a lead on us.

    Give them a stake in the company’s future (as well as their own), incentivise them, be flexible, show you trust them (don’t micromanage) and most importantly, encourage risk taking… fear is creativity’s biggest enemy. Being bold is how things progress.

    I do hope at some point our industry learns these lessons — they’ve been long enough coming.

    Well done again, Murat!

  • Nathalie Fay

    I’m 11 years in. I started as a runner at a production company. I left as a Producer, to start my own business. I got hired as a head of department by a top 4 media agency. I left to continue with said own business. I’ve been sued twice, fired once, collected more than one Gold Lion at Cannes, have worked with terrible clients, amazing clients, poisonous politics and made lifelong friends. No it’s not easy and Yes there’s always something to moan about. Don’t write a massive blog post – if you believe you really know best, put your money where your mouth is and start your own thing – it’s awesome. It’s painful. It’s awesome. Gandhi said ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world’. I couldn’t agree more.

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/ Murat Mutlu

      I disagree, i’d encourage anyone with thoughts on their industry to write about it.

      Judging by the amount of emails I’ve been getting it has really helped fellow designers and creatives, and that’s what matters to me.

      • Nathalie Fay

        I’ve absolutely no doubt that it’s found agreement in many a kindred spirit and will win many pats on the back. My point really is that (and a bit of me dies admitting this) for all the nodding and sharing that will ensue, I don’t believe it will change anything, the mouse icon will head to the close button and the readers will get back to work. The best outcome will be if some readers are willing to risk not being paid for X days / weeks / months and strike it out on their own… if they do that, I take it all back. You’ll have changed the world :)

    • http://www.famesbond.com/ aditya menon

      Why isn’t he allowed to do both?

    • http://www.TheWallBreakers.com/ The Wall Breakers

      Great insight! It’s really important that people actually take the big step in changing advertising culture by creating some good culture of their own.

    • http://madeofhells.tumblr.com/ Triangle Dimes

      So you’re upset that someone wrote a blog post about this because their audience isn’t populated exclusively by you?

      • Nathalie Fay

        Yes. Nail on the head. Your shelves must be cracking under all those brilliant insight and comment trolling awards.

        • http://madeofhells.tumblr.com/ Triangle Dimes

          So is sarcasm a neat trick you do when people call you on your petty bullshit?

    • Simon

      And then you start on your own, get a couple of great clients, do good work you start hiring people and suddenly you find yourself at the other end….

  • VKSEKAR

    Thanks for sharing
    this great Post dude

    SEO
    Services Bangalore

  • squidgod

    Sure, I may be stuck in a dead-end job with no prospects and a dated skill-set which is rapidly fading into obsolescence, but thank god I don’t work in advertising.

  • http://e-digitaldesign.com/ Eric Malcolm

    Great post.

    Depending on the place you work you get about half and half on the list. You can’t get everything you want right away without working on your own, even then sometimes you need to take on projects you don’t want in order to pay the bills or have to hire other people to help you out.

    I agree with Nathalie – “…it’s awesome. It’s painful. It’s awesome.” No matter where you work or what you do, life is about ups and downs.

  • Guest

    What about talented and disgruntled copywriters? Can they be part of your Hire My Friend list? They’re creative, too… and also agree with every bit of this.

  • Guest

    What about talented and disgruntled copywriters? Can they also be added to your Hire My Friend list? They’re creative too… and also agree with every bit of this post.

  • http://www.srinistuff.com Srinivas Kulkarni

    Quite an interesting read… Indeed some of these exact reasons are why many creative people jump ship. But come to think of it, grass always seems greener on the other side… Most of these issues crop up in every other agency and probably the choice is between the ones that have a mindset that is either disruptive and don’t actually hesitate to articulate these as part of their culture or to move on to an agency which probably tries its best to maintain the balance with a blend that keeps the shop running and at the same time deliver great work cause of reducing some of these issues in house…

  • Honey Young

    I love reading this kind of article. It is
    really interesting one. pmp test

  • philipdenys

    super love this article…#storyofmylife

  • http://www.mobilejury.com/ Nikhil @ MobileJury.com

    Talented people should not leave good places. There are many talented creatives as on http://www.mobilejury.com

  • There, I said it

    The long and the short of why people jump ship is usually because the grass always looks greener. More often than not it isn’t.

    People lack the commercial understanding and get sucked into their pretentious designer lifestyle ambitions of drinking Starbucks and knocking out a couple of lines of code or shifting pixels around on their mac book.

    Carry on freelancing if you like that.

    • http://madeofhells.tumblr.com/ Triangle Dimes

      Yeah that’s EXACTLY why people leave agencies, it’s cause they’re lazy hipsters who don’t “get it.” Fucking hack.

  • Harry Pujols

    I left the agency world 5 years ago to become a front-end developer, and I am happier, more relaxed and more satisfied with work than over a decade in advertising as a “creative” (a noun invented by the industry that I always hated). At the time I was in agencies, they were clinging to Adobe Flash like those guys who still wear trucker hats. They were really slow to move, but I noticed offers to work on their “HTML5 projects” increased about a year ago. They still don’t get it.

    I took a gig at a couple of agencies that treat front-end developers as some kind of IT guys. Putting us to code in 10-year-old PCs running Windows, with proprietary technology, in windowless basement cubes, with unrealistic deadlines, and the worst pay for for the position in any industry. I remember asking a project manager when do we go to lunch, she answering “Oh, we don’t go to lunch here.” Another agency was so into the hourly billing that micromanaged every keystroke I made, me having to report in detail what I did every hour with spreadsheets of client and project codes. I didn’t see in the spreadsheet the code for the time I spent filling spreadsheets.

    Currently, I’m in a tech company with a startup mentality (but they have been around since the 90s). No micromanaging, one-hour lunch breaks, rarely work over 40 hours a week, I have time to experiment with new frameworks, they assign me an iMac with a large monitor for slicing Photoshop images, making icons, do most of my work, AND a PC laptop for when I have to do Windows stuff. My work is platform-agnostic, no proprietary stuff like Flash or .NET.

    Needless to say, I don’t accept work from advertising agencies anymore. I don’t care how cool they say they are.

  • http://www.ideaswise.com/ Peter Wise

    A great article and true across the agency board. I’ve seen it happen first hand as well – the hours get longer, the work quality goes down and down, the pay gets poorer, the perks disappear, the fun vanishes, creatives turn into dogsbodies, the bullshit increases, while a tiny number at the very top give themselves obscene pay rises. Self-employed is the only way to go – if you’ve got the talent and the dedication then the pay, work quality, life quality, job satisfaction and security are all so much better.

    • http://madeofhells.tumblr.com/ Triangle Dimes

      “We’ve effectively ruined your life and mental stability, but here: we got some beers to have on Friday… You have to drink them here and discuss work while drinking them, though.”

  • http://kyleracki.com/ Kyle Racki

    This is a great article, and the comment thread is perhaps even more interesting. It seems there’s a massive polarization between agency owners/managers and designers/producers (can we please stop calling them creatives?).

    I have experience on both sides – I am a designer who started out working for agencies, became disillusioned and went freelance at 24, grew it into a small agency I ran for 5 years before selling it off, and now at 30 I run a funded startup that helps agencies with sales/proposals.

    As a designer I’m having the time of my life running a SaaS company, being able to spend time crafting my baby, testing, iterating, having no clients (just customers) to please. I never could experience this with client work. It’s reignited my passion for design after years of treating it like just a means to an end.

    On the other hand, I sympathize with agency managers. If you’re an employee you don’t have to log into your bank account some months and wonder how this weeks’ payroll will be covered because a client didn’t pay on time. It makes it all the more difficult when someone complains about their monitor being too small, meanwhile you’re busting your ass to bring in clients so they can pay their mortgage, sometimes the owner himself not being paid (this is spoken from experience).

    I’m writing a post on my blog (http://proposify.biz/articles) towards agency owners about retaining talent and will link to this post. if anyone has thoughts to share or would like to be featured, please email me kyle AT proposify DOT biz.

  • Mss JOY

    i am really short of words, can’t finally believe i got my boyfriend back this is my testimony about the man that brought back my man Dr KPELEDE he gave me the heart and confident to trust in he within the period of 2days right now we are living happily and getting very ready and set for our wedding, i am so much happy knowing full well there are real, true spell casters who can really make things happen within the shortest possible time. for help you can reach him :kpeledesolutiontemple@gmail.com Tel:+2347038111854