Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Relationships. Small and large.


I think it’s fair to say I am something of an authority on the agency business. You could say, I was born into it.

My Uncle Sid, born 1915, started an agency in Philadelphia in 1945, Weightmann advertising that became that city’s largest agency.

And my old man, Stan, ran one of America’s largest agencies, retiring as CEO in 1978.

I’ve been typing for a living in agencies since December, 1984.

One thing I’ve learned through the years is that people come and go in agencies like bus-boys in a busy diner. One week you might spend 70 hours with a co-worker. Then you might never see them again.

There’s a transactional nature to most relationships. Sure you get along and kibbitz and have drinks or coffee or travel places to shoot with expensive directors. But we accept that transitoriness as a part of agency life.

Of late, I realized that this is wrong.

When you work with good people you should hold onto those professional relationships.

Kim, for instance, isn’t just an account person who’s being nice because she needs some copy from me faster than you can say avocado toast. And Lou isn’t just some guy you tolerate because he has a nice big title and a lot of power.

If you play your cards right you realize that you’re lucky enough to work with many extraordinary people. And with those people you have to try to form what I call “twenty-year relationships.”

By that I mean a super-charged sense of responsibility to them based on the notion that in a volatile business you never know where your friends will turn up or when. Nine years from now, the aforementioned and fictional Kim who today is a bright, young account person, might be leading an agency. Lou, also aforementioned and fictional, might be working as a CMO somewhere.

People need people. And it’s only natural especially in times of sturm und drang to turn to people who have been through battles or in the trenches with you before. Only natural to count on people who went the extra mile for you, or were kind to you, or even got you a pastrami sandwich one crazy day when you had two hours to do two days’ work.

This is not for a minute to say you should only ever turn to people you know. But there are times when you need to. When someone calls you and says, “Do you know any young art directors?” Or someone has a giant freelance project and they need a great TV team.

My point is simple.

Be considered with people, and considerate.

Be lovely, helpful and kind.


Return emails even if you have 97 in your mailbox.

That’s simple, right?

It’s also something else.

It’s being human.

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