A quick message about the best advice I ever got about working in the creative industry. I don’t remember it verbatim, but it was something along the lines of this:
“Nobody knows anything; it’s your ability to figure stuff out that sets you apart.” -Don Elliott
The creative industry is constructed entirely on a foundation of getting paid to solve problems, but nobody has the answers to everything. Research, analytics, and strategy can go a long way in informing the “right” solutions, but they don’t always convince the people writing the checks. The whole industry is becoming progressively more digital, legacy ad agencies keep trying/failing to bring dev in-house, and there are more analytics and PM tools than we’ll ever know what to do with. And yet, projects still go over budget and behind schedule. What the hell?
It’s because nobody really knows anything. Don’t flatter yourself. If you’re reading this, I’d bet you know a couple things. Hell, I know a couple things. I mean, that’s why I’m writing this.
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that humans are all innately different. That’s ultimately what creates all these problems that we get paid to solve. Understanding those differences is basically what I’ve built my career on so far, and I still don’t know anything. The unquantifiable human element is why projects go over budget and behind schedule, but it’s also why some projects turn out amazing.
Too often, agencies forget that clients are people too. Agencies prescribe solutions instead of empathizing first. Client relationships end up being built on arguing over solutions instead of talking about dogs over beers. I may not know anything, but I feel pretty strongly that taking the time to empathize with clients as people leads to better solutions.
So, here’s my advice based on the very few things I actually sort of know:
Agencies: remember that you don’t actually know anything. You’re getting paid to figure shit out because that’s what you do. Stay humble, keep learning, and try to have more conversations with your clients about their dogs and stuff. Or pay me money and I’ll do that for you.
Clients: remember that agencies don’t actually know anything. They’re just good at figuring stuff out. Also, for the love of god, stop writing RFPs. Just get beers with people at agencies and hire whoever bullshits you the least. Or pay me money and I’ll do that for you.