There are a lot of good-hearted, generous people to be sure, but the other ones are dragging us down.
It’s been my experience that the advertising industry has a sizable chip on its black turtle-necked shoulders. A couple of incidents over the past week re-enforced this up-ourselves attitude that continues to permeate our industry.
A recent Island university graduate looking for a copywriting intern job somewhere, tweeted his interest in a clever way and a Vancouver ad agency responded. The grad was asked if he had a portfolio of work and he said no, but he had social media and digital contest work to show. Good enough for an interview, said the ad agency. So he hauled his butt off to Vancouver – and the costs of that, plus missing a day of work.
At the interview he was asked where his portfolio was, and he repeated that he didn’t have one but had the stuff he had mentioned to them earlier. In response, the creative guy at the agency dressed him down for showing up without one, offered him a couple of bon mots for his trouble and a few minutes later the intern was heading back to the ferry.
I have heard variations on this story throughout my career. Creative advertising folks have it all wrong. We are not God’s chosen ones. We are not saving lives, or toiling selflessly for the betterment of our community. Instead we are guffawing at our own cleverness, obsessing over awards and lording it over people who want to get into the biz. The opportunity here was to help this smart, enthusiastic person have a good impression of the industry, even if he hadn’t been right for the job. Instead he walked away feeling bad about himself and ad agencies. Fail.
A potential client called us on the phone to ask whether we worked with small businesses. I responded with something very Master Po-like: “Even the mightiest oak tree begins as an acorn.” She said she was relieved because the other Victoria agency she had spoken with said they never work for any client with less than a $50,000 marketing budget.
Fair enough, we all have our business models. But when she asked the agency for a recommendation to another shop she might approach, they refused to help her.
We are now working with this delightful client because we ranked high in search when she checked out who else was in town. Her first comment to us was, “I had a bad first impression of your industry.” I’ll say. What would it have taken for this other agency to provide her with a list of places with the caveat that their business models may not also align with her needs? Instead: You’re too small and we’re not going to waste our time helping you. Thanks for stopping by. Fail.
As our business becomes more complex and challenging, and skills come into play from more areas of society, I hope this arrogant attitude will dissipate and we’ll be left with good ambassadors for our business wherever potential clients or employees touch us. It won’t happen soon enough for me. We are screwing ourselves with this shameful customer service.
I don’t want to end on such a bummer note, so if you have any anecdotes about good experiences with ad agencies, please share them here!
We could use the PR.
(Sorry I used a bad word in the first paragraph.)