Agency People Told Digiday Why They’re Unhappy

By Patrick Coffee 

digiday_expandedOne week ago, Digiday posted a story asking “why are agency people so unhappy?

It’s been very popular for good reason. Here’s a relevant quote from Dan LaCivita of Firstborn:

“The people writing racist, sexist and awful comments on websites are the bottom of the barrel, and they’re employed, which means they’re making a whole bunch of other people miserable too.”


We have no idea which websites he might be referencing, but we wanted to learn more — so we decided to wade through the Digiday comments to more effectively gauge the agency world’s response to the piece.

In summary, the reasons readers gave for their own misery were:

  • Overinvolved, increasingly demanding clients
  • A focus on data/ROI over strong creative work
  • Younger employees and their various senses of entitlement

One commenter writes:

“we bargain the creative process replace it with a “sh**tload of meaningless strategy, make our money with media buys and production. But a bad campaign with a ton of media is never going to be good.”

He goes on to argue that many enter the industry with big ideas that give way to “Helping people buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have.”

A popular commenter named “Noran” writes, again, that some agency employees focus too much on the personal aspects of the creative process rather than viewing it as simply another job to be done:

“when others evaluate your creative solution, you don’t need to feel like it is your ego being poked…forget about nurturing your creative passion in this boat. Just do it for the money and getaway with it.”

Right, says “Wendy” — but it’s really just the kids these days:

“They think that they can simply work on fun, creative projects and that the rest of the agency and the clients will simply love their work. When that doesn’t happen, they get angry. When their project isn’t the main focus of the agency, they get angry. When we ask them to back up their ideas with facts, they get angry.”

Lest you call her rant an updated version of “get off my lawn”:

“…it is specific to Millenials…all had the same problem in that they would not listen to their supervisors and they had very little respect for their supervisors.”

So they got fired. It’s not all employees, though. “grandenchilada” writes that clients now have too much influence:

“there is a huge gap between the expectations of marketers and what they think they are asking agencies, particularly creatives, to deliver.

…half of the people involved want to measure the unmeasurable. They want to ensure that absolutely every aspect of the creative they are bankrolling is going to have an equivalent in marketing results. This is not humanly possible.”

…and “former agency refugee” has a solution:

“…either fire your client partner if they can’t manage the client or fire the client if they can’t be managed.”

For more on the client relationship, there’s this comment by “You Need Love”:

“Clients don’t trust us.

If you want to fix the culture of agencies, you have to remind them of what they sell: it’s not pretty banners, effective websites, or slick videos. It’s the expertise to take those things and craft them into a story that not only drives sales but also builds the brand’s equity. And that is MUCH harder and MUCH MORE work than just writing a :30 and crapping out a print ad.”

While not all readers agree, consensus seems to hold that client/agency relationships have devolved since some unspecified time in the past.

We have written copy for clients, so we do understand how frustrating the entire process can be. We are also well aware of the fact that ideological maxims about only doing work that you believe in are, by definition, impossible to achieve.

And yes, we realize that we just posted on the comments on a Digiday post. It’s all so meta.

But someone urged us to do it, and we’re sure that our readers have some opinions about those opinions that they’d like to share.