Why I Quit My Job in Advertising

My master thesis, titled Negotiating Creativity, uncovered the tensions related to operating a consulting agency within a knowledge-intensive industry. The results were clear. The issues lies at the core of how traditional consulting agencies are operating and structured. The traditional agency structure reflect the clients’ organisational structure to a large extent. Top-down hierarchies and individuals separated by field of knowledge or profession. Things that are in contrast with the science of how creativity and innovation are produced. This made me question more than just my career path. But let’s break it down.

First and foremost. When it comes to the intangibility of services characterised by creativity and innovation it’s impossible to define the outcome in advance. It’s the concept of originality, to create something that hasn’t been made before. This implies a complexity in the agency-client relationship which puts an emphasis on learning with and from each other.

However, when an agency charge their clients by the hour a risk management situation emerge. The client starts to control how the hours are spent and in this context control is the antagonist of creativity. Especially since the client most often don’t possess the knowledge of how the value is created. Otherwise, why would they invest in the service in the first place?

Time don’t necessary represent the value created. Certainly not when it comes to the creative industry. This creates a demand for alternative ways of how to price the service. In a field where knowledge asymmetries are apparent there’s a lot to gain for the agency in sharing the risk with the client. Which is often possible in the digital age, where we’re able to evaluate what we’ve created as consultants. This is something that wasn’t possible a few decades ago, but it needs the right incentives from both parties. I’ll develop these thoughts further on and also introduce my theoretical framework for this named: Value-based Creativity.

In order to be successful, the agency and client need to fully understand each other’s field of knowledge. Learning is a social process and in the context of operating a consulting agency you would want to spend as much time as possible together with your client. However, if the agency have billed hours as one of their main KPI’s there will be a lack of incentive to spend additional time together with the client. Unless you get paid, that is. Insufficient knowledge of each other, both personally and professionally, often results with the agency engaging in impression management. Sorting out who they need to please in order to succeed, which leads to the client ending up with the solution they perceived to want — but may not need.

What advertising can learn from other industries is a subject for another time, but it has tendencies to embrace the old and live in the past. In a world where markets change faster than ever I decided to pursuit my idealistic view on how work can be organised within creative and innovative environments. This implies to keep questioning how we’ve historically done things. But if you spend to much time looking backwards, you might miss the important steps you need to take in order to be successful in the future.

My writing let me reflect on both micro and macro aspects of the things that occupy my mind from time to time. To achieve both professional and personal development I’ll post my thoughts every now and then. I hope it made you think. If you’ve a subject that you want to reflect upon, don’t hesitate to write me a line at andreas@dedicatedstrangers.com