Saturday, August 25, 2007

The good enough agency.

Jay Chiat, I think it was, famously said "good enough is not good enough." True. But this post is not about good enough in the "Chiatian" sense. Instead it's about some thoughts by child psychologist and educator Donald Winnicot, who propagated the notion of the "good-enough mother."

A little background, to Winnicott, the good-enough mother tries to provide what the infant needs, but she instinctively leaves a time lag between the demands and their satisfaction and progressively increases it. As Winnicott states: "The good-enough mother...starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant's needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant's growing ability to deal with her failure" (Winnicott, 1953). The good enough mother stands in contrast with the "perfect" mother who satisfies all the needs of the infant on the spot, thus preventing him/her from developing.

I wonder if more agencies should think about this contrast. Clients (and I'm not being condescending here) in this metaphor can be thought of as babies. If all their needs are met immediately, perfectly, they will never develop patience and maturity. They will never accept dissent, strong opinions, even defiance. They will grow reliant, dependent but not trusting.

The good enough agency would not ignore the client, but instead, help the client to develop independently and maturely over time. Ultimately what the child/client learns is a sense of self.

I am neither a psychologist or an account guy, but this makes sense to me. Is your agency good enough? Because that's better than perfect.


Unknown said...

good enough also means nice enough which also means cheap enough. In the era in which advertising (ideas and the vehicles those ideas travel in) are bought in bulk, like any other commodity, it is only natural that prices are driven down. Along with the quality. It's an addiction to procurement departments.
I've got nothing against china and india, but they can now offer "creativity" and production of world wide advertising to increasingly low (paradox?) prices. The creative call center is here. This, in tandem with an over production of creative types at ad schools all over is killing the margins for the US and Europe based agencies, driving down salaries among creatives and leaving old - but still more than able - farts wondering what the heck hit them. It certainly wasn't a sudden disappearance of ability, talent and experience, in those geezers, that spoiled the party. It's a total disinterest in ideas and that actually sell that is the culprit. The fragmentation of media isn't helping. It makes the total effect of a strong idea almost impossible to gauge. Now, of course, of all advertising published, the bulk has always been rather meaningless as far as R.O.I goes. Besides fattening the media in which it appeared.
Consequently it does make sense to produce the dross cheaper. By the way, I'm really good at getting more things done for less. Because i've long known where to save money without sacrificing quality. But nobody really wanted to listen to that while i was still at the big shops. I guess it wasn't really lucrative as the money would not be made at the headquarter in the big expensive cities. Now clients, used to outsource far more complex things than the development of a website or the final art piece for an ad are demanding that agencies learn how to use their international networks to help them save money. Those who can't risk losing the account. Quality notwithstanding. Talking about the good enough agency.

Anonymous said...

Giving clients what they ask for as opposed to giving them what they need (which may take a little more time and/or thought) is like giving a spoiled child a piece of candy every time she throws a tantrum.
Alas, it is the rare occasion that I succeed in convincing account folk and creative directors that we should teach the client better, for their own good.