Not all that terribly long ago I was the head of the flagship office of a large digital agency. I guess because they paid me a lot of money management felt the need to punish me periodically by making me attend two-day symposia led by HR. I've been to a dozen or so of these brain-drains over the years. They always leave me feeling homicidal.
This particular one was centered around, it seemed to me, being concrete. Concrete. That was the word they used. And they used it as a pejorative. They meant rigid, hard-assed and unyielding. These attributes were, according to the outside consultant who ran the sessions, bad things. We should instead be welcoming, open to all points of view and work styles, and we should seek a sort of ethereal amity--the agency equivalent, I suppose, of rainbows and unicorns.
Right now at work I am spending a few spare hours a week helping out on a new business pitch. Just about every day some producer or another schedules a two-hour "touch-base" or "work session" where about eleventeen-dozen fairly high-paid people crowd into a too-bright conference room and stare at their handhelds.
What I've noticed in these meetings is that everyone is HR-correct. No one is concrete. No one comes in with a thought, a fact, a thorough reading of the potential client's annual report.
Yesterday I brought in two well-written manifestos. Two paths I think we could chase down to get to a tone, a feeling, a point of view.
I was concrete. I did something. I put thoughts on paper.
One of the eternal debates in advertising is whether or not we are in a service business. You hear it all the time, usually from account people or brainwashed creatives.
We are in a product business. We make communications that transform businesses. That's our product. It's that simple.
If you don't come into a meeting with something real, something concrete, stay home.