The careful strategy planning that we use to create winning campaigns for our clients has to be brought in to solve the present impasse. Before an outsider tells us that we have a problem, we need to put our house in order. To find the solution we need to agree on two things. First, we have to accept the fact that there are problems which are affecting the performance of the employees. And second, work up a mutually beneficial solution that will have long term benefits.
We can start with the question, WHAT?
What is the cause of the trouble? We always focus on client satisfaction as the crucial aspect of agency survival. What we often tend to forget or disregard is the question of employee satisfaction. Effort recognition and sincere appreciation goes a long way in creating a positive environment that is conducive to excellent performances. The disagreement between the servicing teams and the creative teams is as old as advertising itself. Every firm will have its own strategy on how best this can be dealt with. The need of the hour is communication. The management has to sit down and talk it out with the team on a more frequent basis. This will foster a more personal relationship which will result in better levels of understanding that is lacking at present.
The next question is HOW?
The answer is simple. The accounts crew which serve as contact points between the company and the client usually get the laurels for a successful campaign. This leaves the rest of the team in disappointment which translates as frustration with the next job. Perfect servicing is nothing without innovative ideas and vice versa. Similarly, a sound idea may fizzle away with bad design execution and unimaginative copy. The question is not whether a copywriter is more important than the art director. We believe that every individual has a share in creating good work. This recognition of the importance of everyone in the team is crucial to boosting the team spirit.
A sense of give and take is essential between the accounts and creative teams. If the servicing people stubbornly insist that the client is king and expect the copywriters and designers to make constant changes according to the whims of the client, there is bound to be trouble. Working with yesterdays deadlines and unnerving pressure can bring the creative team to a quick burnout. To avoid this, a daily schedule is absolutely essential. What happens in most cases is that the workload is not evenly distributed. A daily preview of who is expected to do what will give everyone a clear idea of how much work is on the anvil and how best to meet the deadlines.
A weekly review of work which will involve every person in the company is the first step. The meeting can be held at the end of every week, at a given time which should be convenient for everyone. The agenda will be an update of the work that has been done during the week, an overview of new jobs, client feedback, possible pitches and a personal comments session where everyone can speak about what they feel is important for the success of the company.
Such an open platform will not only bring a sense of transparency to the agency but also create a sense of confidence in the minds of the employees because they will understand that their opinions also count. A feeling of belonging is integral to the very idea of team work. To make this happen, we have to foresee the obstacles we will certainly have to face. Initially there will be some wrangling about the need for such meetings and any given time will be inconvenient for every other person. The word compulsory works magic when it comes to finding time for something. But setting a time and place and sticking to it against all odds is equally important.
The next question is WHY?
Though everyone in the company is working hard enough, the joint effort is not very visible. To create a sense of unity and to pep up the teams spirits, an interactive workshop must be conducted every three months which will again involve everyone in the company. In the advertising industry, changes take place on an overnight basis. There is always something new to learn. Keeping up with the flow is possible only when there is a frequent discussion of every issue. Be it new soft wares, award winning ads, fresh perspectives from the creative angle, what the competition is up to etc. Like Burnett once said, creative ideas flourish only in places which have a sense of fun. Workshops are very effective in both cases. Inspiring speeches and group activities will help remove the sense of separateness that the employees now feel.
Of course, we dont need another Ogilvy to tell us that job hopping is part and parcel of every advertising firm. But we should get a revitalizing shot right away to ensure optimal performance. It is only when an employee puts in his/her resignation letter that the management begins to ask whether there was a problem. Instead, there should be a system in which the management is closely aware of every individuals level of satisfaction within the company. This will help forestall problems and help retain the work force.
This leads us to the question WHEN?
Theres no time like now to start anew. Every department can review their internal issues and learn to take responsibility for success and failures instead of playing Passing the Buck. Change need not come from the grassroots. It can start at the top. The management can lead by example, and rest assured that everyone will follow. A clear agenda need to be drawn up immediately.
To surmise, we need
Daily meetings with accounts and creative teams.
Weekly round up of work with the entire agency.
At least three workshops a year.
To encourage people to voice their views.
Deal with disproportionate recognition of efforts.
Hold the team together at all cost.
And above all, we need to do this right away.
I sincerely hope that we can make a difference to how things are run, enhance our professionalism and strive towards a better tomorrow for ourselves and the company.
(This is just for your perusal)
Ogilvy David Confessions of an Advertising Man
Garba Kabir Alabi, The Trouble With The Advertising Industry, The Guardian, (24th March 2008)