WE’RE HIRING THE WRONG PEOPLE

One time, we were doing a pitch at GGT.
Mike Greenlees was in full flow, presenting the agency strategy to the client.
Pretty soon, Mike Gold would be doing the media, then I’d present the creative work.
The trouble was, there was an awful lot of banging coming from the roof above.
We tried to ignore it, but it was getting louder and louder.
Everyone was getting distracted.
And the client was listening to the banging instead of listening to Mike.
The room we used for pitches was the entire top floor of the agency.
It had a great view over Soho.


But you could hear whatever was going on above.
And all the noise was distracting everyone from the pitch.
Eventually I decided I had to go upstairs and sort it out.
So I left the pitch and climbed up the fire escape.
When I got up there Barry White, our studio head, and another bloke were erecting a tent.
On top of our building in the middle of Soho.
I said “Barry, what are you doing?”
He said “I advertised this tent in Exchange & Mart and this bloke wants to check out it all works properly.”
Barry, and the prospective purchaser, had climbed up the fire escape to the roof with a massive great 4-room, family-size frame tent.
I said “Well you’ll have to wait until after the pitch. You’re making a terrible racket downstairs.”
Barry wasn’t happy but he understood.
And I went back down to get on with presenting the creative work.
The good thing with having Barry around was he was a normal bloke.
Being a normal bloke he had different priorities to most advertising luvvies.
He was, well, normal.
I first noticed it on Thursday mornings.
All the newspapers and magazines used to come in and get dumped on reception.
Everyone, including Barry, rushed to get there first.
Everyone wanted to get a copy of Campaign before anyone else got it.
Not Barry.
He bypassed Campaign and went straight for Exchange & Mart.
I said “What’s the rush Barry?”
He said “All the best stuff goes before noon. It’s no good to me if I don’t get it first thing Thursday morning.”
Then Barry sat down with his Exchange & Mart, while everyone else sat down with their copy of Campaign.
I don’t think there’s enough people like Barry in advertising agencies.
Normal people.
People like the people we’re supposed to be talking to.
People who’ve got lives outside of advertising.
See we’ve got it wrong.
Agencies are staffed with people who seek out advertising.
Where actually it should be the other way round.
Actually it’s advertising’s job to seek out people.
If we had a few more people like Barry around, who couldn’t care less about advertising, we’d have a better view of what our job actually is.
Instead of putting ourselves in a context that makes us believe everyone, everywhere, cares deeply and desperately about ads.
We’d realise no one, anywhere cares at all about ads.
Consequently that’s our first job.
To do ads that buy space in people’s attention.
How you buy space there is by becoming relevant to whatever people are interested in.
Instead of assuming the people will decode whatever advertising we produce.

Ad agencies are staffed with the wrong people.

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