August 11, 2014

Whatever You Do, Don't Be Yourself

If you want to be successful in the ad business, one of the first things you have to learn is to ignore all the baloney about "being yourself."

As a matter of fact, at all costs, do not be yourself.

Being yourself is a one-way ticket to Starbucksville.

I don't know who you are, or what "yourself" is like, but I guarantee you, "yourself" will be a big flop in the agency world.

In the agency world, you are expected to talk like this:
"(White Castle) is a beloved challenger brand... They seek an agency partner to align with their idea-rich, entrepreneurial culture and evolve the brand’s cultural relevance, especially among the millennial target."
See what I mean? That's an actual quote from an agency consultant. I don't care how full of shit yourself is, yourself can't be that full of shit.

Yourself might have said,
"White Castle is a bottom-feeding purveyor of unspeakable crap that just got a new CMO who wants an agency that will kiss his ass."
I'm afraid that just wouldn't sit well with the new masters of marketing.

That's why, to be successful in the agency business, you have to be very careful not to be yourself.

Here are some simple rules to follow to keep from being yourself:
Do not speak in simple declarative sentences
Do not ever express doubts about anything
Do not tell your colleagues what pathetic kiss-asses they are
Do not ever disagree with the highest ranking person in the room
When a client says the stupidest fucking thing you've ever heard, smile and nod
Remember, every sentence you speak or write must contain the word "brand" or "engagement"
I'm afraid that being yourself simply will not align with this idea-rich entrepreneurial culture or evolve your cultural relevance. So take my advice, amigo. Be the other guy.

Okay, now get out there and knock 'em dead.


Contrary Mary said...

Hi Bob, Long time lurker here, Your point hit home for me some years back when on an agency selection committee. Every single agency person used the exact same clich├ęd phrases and all wanted us to believe their agency was different from the other guys Truly horrifying experience. *grins*

BullshitCrapperPro said...

Hi, thanks for daily dose of healthy cynicism and keeping common-sense (known as critical thinking) awake.

I have been "in marketing" for about 12 years, digging in and through medias, creative agencies and media agencies and also, by famous "DUMB CLIENT SIDE" at quite upper management level.
Then fluctuated back to kindergarten of creativity as well respected and heard strategist (let's hold the horses here).

And, for whoever's sake, after years, tons of PowerPoints and keynotes, slides, ignite talks, kickoff & kickbutt meetings,
I can honestly say, that I do not understand two things at all:

1) why marketers, CMO's, marketing directors and communication officers are so emotionally and intelectually impotent that they need "agency to hate and sqeeuze out that daily portion of bluffly bullshit bingo"- the famous hate dog at G.G.Marquez novel.

2) where is the secret superpower of agencies to be at the business where, rationally, can't be any business? Where all "key visual" job is done by two senior desktopers under commentary supervision by one art director, but "these two" feed a team of 5 twice as much paid generalists and managers-transmitters?

Carl Zetie said...

When you write "don't be yourself", I think you meant to say "professional success is aligned with projecting and protecting your personal brand, so leverage those attributes that most reflect the relevance of your..." Ack! Ack! Sorry, I couldn't finish that.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

This is what makes me want to taze kittens.

Stephen Eichenbaum said...

Amazing how well this works for any person running for office, too.


Oh soooo true. Which is why NO MATTER WHAT our clients say, our account people respond with either "Great!" or "Perfect!". It seems there are no other acceptable answers these days. But of course, we still say,
"We're your marketing PARTNERS".

Charlotte said...

This explains everything. Now I know why I work for myself.

bob hoffman said...

Loved your piece, Umar. Especially #8.

uglymugagency said...

Ah Ha! That explains why i'm so despised by the agencies here in Clowntown! And here I thought it was just ageism, but no, it's "truth-ism!"