Brewing Our Own Disenchantment In Agency-Land
Feeling trapped carrying out other people's agendas in your job? Contributor Kendall Allen asks that you consider the alternatives.
There’s been passion brewing lately about the perpetual unhappiness of agency folk.
A very popular Digiday post last month took a pass at profiling the nature of this unhappiness — and rightly pinpointed a number of issues: pay; long hours; lack of express appreciation from the inside and from clients and, of course, performance anxiety on various fronts.
The piece socialized itself rapidly and spread like wildfire. Why? Agency Land has long been the subject of curiosity for all of us, whether you’ve spent time on the inside or not. Our love/hate relationship leads to a certain romanticization.
Personally, my exposure has been broad (and sometimes deep and painful), including time inside independent boutiques, start-ups going through earn-out, large holding companies and specialty shops — both private and public.
The prevailing gripe seems to be that, as an agency person, you have little control over your job, because the clients’ whims can upset life in a heartbeat. For me, client work has been a varied, sometimes seemingly lawless and hectic ride, but one I would not trade for the world.
By facing and engaging with the client, through all these different environments and types of weather, you gain an incomparable foundation to your business life.
Own Your Job Happiness
Let us not forget the principle of self-fulfilling prophecy. You ultimately own the shape, integrity and tone of your own career.
I somehow believe that time inside the agency is valuable to everyone in this industry — even if you don’t stay there. And, if you do stay there, you make your own bed.
If you leave, you hopefully take lessons forward that you can leverage. These include everything from collaborating across departments; the art of relationship development inside and out; the do’s and don’ts of escalation; whether you are more art, more science or both; your taste for operating amidst or playing politics; and as much about the domain you service as possible.
But, if you choose not to, or find yourself unable to approach these lessons with passion — it’s pretty easy to quickly descend to misery. And thus, your state becomes the subject — along with the perennial pieces about fixing the agency model — of another inside look at the agency life.
My question is: why participate? Why perpetuate? In a marketplace so full of opportunity, if we believe we have given it our all and the malaise grinds on, we can make a change. (But perhaps misery loves company. So, sometimes we stay.)
But, if we are wise, we recognize that we can all be the change we want to see. Even if it means switching habitats. That’s OK, too.