Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fifteen Ways the Advertising Business Used To Be More Fun, Part II

Last week I gave the first seven reasons. Here are the last eight.

8.    Everyone lived for the work
The work was everything.  Even at the straightest, most boring agencies, everyone believed in what they were doing and what they had created.  We all lived to make it better.  Every agency fought back against copy testing which made the work bland.  We all loved those arguements, (but rarely won them).

9.    There were no silos
If someone had an idea, agencies would find a way to act on it.  A person could have a non-media, public relations idea or a promotional thought on how to push their client’s business and it would get presented and often executed.  Creatives came up with new product ideas. Media commissions provided the room to do non-revenue ideas or the client actually gladly paid for them.

10.     There was integration among the agency disciplines, especially media
Media, account, research and creative met together to determine strategy and client direction.  Those meetings were often long and argumentative, but what resulted was successful and good work.  When media was in the same building, there was more synergy.

            11.  Everyone had his or her own office 
I have written about open plan offices.  There is empirical proof that open plan does not foster creativity; that is a myth perpetuated by finance in order to save money.  People thrived in their own private space.  It also incentivized people to aspire upward so they could bet bigger and better space.  And, indeed, a good office was a mark of an employee’s success and status.
12.     Agencies had real bonus plans, profit-sharing and other incentives
Especially at the big agencies, people who worked at them for ten or more years could leave with a huge nest-egg.  Smaller agencies did other things to keep employees.
13)  Summer Fridays made the business attractive
Taking Friday off during the summer was commonplace.  Many agencies had half-day Fridays or every other Friday off.  Today, not so much; a few agencies offer a couple of optional Fridays in the summer, but many have done away with this perk all together.  There is no evidence that taking away this perk increased productivity.  However, in order to meet the demands of client procurement which lists how many hours the agency must work, this wonderful benefit has gradually waned. 
14)  Big Parties
Part of the whole Mad Men thing was having big, lavish parties which included spouses and suppliers, not just at the holidays, but during the year.  There were many excuses – Welcome Summer, Spring Picnics, etc.  It made people like the business and look forward to staying at their agency.
 15)  Less Fear
Finally, there was less fear.  Fear of being fired or cut back.  I have written about fear.  People who worked on an account that left an agency knew that if they were doing a good job,  knew they would probably not be fired.  And if they were cut back they were, for the most part, given fair and decent severance. 
I am sure you can add to this list or correct it.  I would love to hear your opinions.


  1. Paul … I enjoyed reading all of your 15 reasons why the advertising business used to be more fun and I agree with most of them. But what I miss most today from “Days of Future Past” (h/t, Moody Blues) is people just dropping by my office without an appointment, just to say hello, chat for a minute, or simply get a quick answer to a simple question. That was always fun to me because you never knew who might drop in. Could be the agency president, a creative, a media planner, or just somebody from accounting. In any case, it always resulted in an exchange of frequent friendly greetings, a bit of personal rapport, and direct connections to almost everyone in the agency. A “My door is always open” kind of thing, if you will. But instead, today we now have Outlook, Microsoft, and Google calendar software programs telling everyone where to be; when; and why – with just about everything being by appointment only. No happy surprises or spontaneous fun anymore … just work, work, work! Best, Bill

    1. So true, Bill. Open offices were supposed to promote interaction among employees but has actually done just the opposite. Thanks for your good comment.


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