The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Let Fear Drive You More Than Ego …
February 1, 2011, 6:35 am
Filed under: Comment

It embarrasses me to admit that it was only about 4 or 5 years ago that I realised how to earn a decent salary in adland.

You see as much as we all like to think we’d get paid for our hard efforts and genius, the reality is there are only 3 ways to improve the odds:

1/ Responsibility

[Are you prepared to stand or fall by your decisions and actions?]

2/ Relevance

[Do you offer a skill that is currently in demand, especially from a commercial point of view?]

3/ Relationships

[Do you have – or could you have – key relationships with senior clients &/or management?]

That’s it.

If you don’t have any of those 3, the chances of you earning as much as you want are probably going to be quite hard to achieve.

Now for many of you, this might be obvious, but to me it wasn’t – not even when I started cynic.

You see I was always under the impression that if you worked hard and did good stuff, the rewards would follow – but sadly life isn’t like that – so if you want a company to pay you well, you need to demonstrate how the company will earn more because of you.

The reason I bring this up is that I recently read something about me in Asia’s Campaign magazine that made me feel pretty good about myself.

In the annual ‘agency review’ article, my name was mentioned twice:

In M&C’s overview, it said …

“Meanwhile in China, the departure of Rob Campbell from Sunshine, M&C’s branding consultancy that Campbell launched two years ago, was an unmistakeable blow.”

Whereas in W+K’s overview, it said …

“The big addition in 2010 was the hiring of Rob Campbell as regional head of planning. Campbell’s industry knowledge and innovative approach to planning should sit well within the agencies culture”.

And get this, I didn’t even pay them!!!

The reason it makes me happy is because if Campaign magazine felt my departure/arrival worthy enough of mention, it appears they think I ‘do stuff’ … stuff that has a positive – and commercial – value to companies, colleagues & clients.

I like that.

I like that a lot.

Of course I could be totally wrong – maybe they had nothing else to say or maybe they asked my Mum to write it … however that aside, I like the fact they imply any “success” I achieve/d is based more on what I – and my wonderful band of colleagues – do, rather than on any relationship I hold and that’s very important to me, because it not only validates my beliefs and methods, but it also makes me feel I still have a role to play in this business.

You see here’s the thing.

While I have a very big ego, the thing that drives me most is fear.

I’ve said this before, but I am absolutely petrified I’ll be ‘found out’.

Despite doing this for 2 decades, I just don’t know if I’m any good.

I see all these young guys coming out – and look at all the older guys I hold in high esteem – and I just don’t think I am in either of their leagues.

Hell, half the reason I started cynic was to see if I could pull it off, because I was convinced any praise I’d got previously was due to the brilliant people and agencies I worked with rather than anything I did … and even then my plan backfired because George and Andy were/are so fucking brilliant that everything good that happened to us was directly attributable to their leadership rather than mine.

And then there’s the fact I’m 40.

In the big scheme of things 40 years of age is nothing – however in adland, it’s ancient.

Adfolk have this ridiculous habit of judging a persons ability by their age and they tend to calculate it in a similar way to how people do dogs.

In short, if you’re over 28, you are ready for your funeral.

Now I am lucky that I work at W+K because they value creativity, they don’t devalue age – however I still think the majority of the people I work with look at me like I’m the oldest person alive and they think I should be in the Guinness Book of Records rather than their office.


But at the end of the day, it’s these things that push me.

The fear of not being relevant, recognised or valued is what makes me roll up my sleeves and be actively involved throughout the whole process … they’re the things that ensure I always take on more responsibility than I need … they’re the things that makes me question what I’m doing over and over again … they’re the things that will see me fight for other departments and skill sets and ultimately, they’re the things that ensures a company will pay me enough to keep me in pointless gadgets.

While my ego loves it when I get praised, the reality is I never truly believe what’s being said – and ultimately I think that is a good thing – because the day I do, might be the day I have to start relying on relationships for my livelihood … and apart from the fact I don’t actually know many people who an agency would deem important enough for me to be hired for … the fact is of the folks I do know, I’m perfectly aware they’d make my life a living hell just for the fun of it, so it’s in my interests to ensure I am synonymous with doing stuff rather than just spouting shit.

[This blog excluded. Obviously]

Now whether you believe it or not, this post is not meant as a pat on my own back – it’s actually meant as a bit of a lesson to anyone reading this who is still in the early stages of their career. Or the later ones.

A while back we did a survey that asked people if they wanted their bosses job and a huge percentage of respondents said no.

They didn’t say this because they weren’t ambitious, they said it because they didn’t want to do the ‘other stuff’ they saw their boss had to do … and whilst I can appreciate that, the reality is if you want to receive the benefits you think you are worthy of, you’ve got to prove your worth from more than just your own personal perspective – so whilst I’m not suggesting you should become the agency bitch, you shouldn’t become a self-judicating planning jobsworth either.

Adland is a wonderful business, but it’s still a business so let your insecurities drive you, not your ego – at least if you want to stay in this industry over the age of 40 and still be able to sort-of look at yourself in the mirror.

75 Comments so far
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all you had to fucking say was “do shit so youre not paid shit” but you had to fucking go on for fucking hours didnt you.

one bit that was absofuckinglutely bang on though was when you said im fucking brilliant. why dont you riff on that for a while, there should be enough content there to keep this blog going for 100 years.

Comment by andy@cynic

You do realise I shared the “fucking brilliant” accolade with George and put his name first for a reason don’t you?

Comment by Rob

youre a petty little fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

i take it youre eating 10 krispy kremes a day because thats the only way you can be a fucking big talent at anything.

and whats all this shit about only starting cynic to see if youre any good? you started cynic because you know youre not any good and you worked out getting me and auntie involved could give you a lifestyle you would never deserve without any fucking effort.

fuck me, maybe you are a good fucking planner after all.

Comment by andy@cynic

I am the puppet master and you were my dolls.

Comment by Rob

Much as this latest mid-life crisis can be the source of endless hours of fun, I would just point out that if the vast majority of advertising output is unremarkable, then it is reasonable to conclude the same about the vast majority of the practitioners. As is true of pretty much every industry of course.

Comment by John

youre seriously growing on me dodds.

in just 4 fucking lines you brush away 99% of all the fuckers toiling their little fucking hearts out in their beige faceless ad agency booths like theyre insignificant flies zooming around a piece of shit.

george parker could learn from you.

Comment by andy@cynic

I told him that once – but we were drinking at the time.

Comment by John

yes. I’m still up. I’m still up because I’m back in the industry and I’m scared shitlless. And I’m nearly 40.

Comment by Marcus

youre back in the fucking industry?
after seeing how fucked up it is?
are you a fucking idiot?
or pervert?

on the fucking bright side, you might be the only fucker who can sort it out so stop being a big girls fucking blouse and get on with it. you have 12 months to make it better because then i might go back to work and if its still full of planners talking shit (except the liz hurley of fucking adland wholl be in fucking hello magazine next) ill be holding you fucking responsible.


Comment by andy@cynic

I’m back on my own terms. That’s what is scary the shit out of me. Your kind though… you’ve given me 12 months. Dodds only gave me 12 days to disrupt the industry. The bastard.

Comment by Marcus

I didn’t want you to be sidetracked by the shiny lure of social media.

Comment by John

on your own terms? does that mean you do fuck all, get paid a fortune and have a cavalcade of hot nubile babes entertaining you under your fucking huge desk?

no? not on your own fucking terms then is it.

12 months. get working. clocks ticking.

Comment by andy@cynic

What are you frightened of?

You’ve made more impact as a printer in a shed than most in adland.

For once I agree with Andy, and that’s very scary indeed.

Comment by Rob

You may think the 3 rules to pay should be obvious Robert, but with so few people seemingly practicing it, it would be fair to say you are not alone in your ignorance.
In fairness, this may because agencies are not set up to allow people to grow in these areas, but as you have shown and as Campaign seem to back up, change comes from the individual and simply waiting for it to occur is the excuse of apathy.
John correctly points out that it would be impossible for everyone in advertising to adopt these rules, but there are many who have the potential and I hope this post serves as the kick they need.
A good post.

Comment by George

youre still nice to the fucker when he openly admits he used us for his own personal fucking gain. hes like sorrell just taller and poorer.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m attempting to lull him into a false sense of security Andrew. Apologies John, I misread your comment, we obviously agree with the point Robert is making.

Comment by George

youve got more fucking money than all of us so why are you creeping to doddsy and not fucking giving me your % of the happy kerching? i know why. because youre a bastard, all planners are.

Comment by andy@cynic

I agree with everything you said but I wasn’t suggesting it was impossible for everyone in every industry to adopt those rules. Too many don’t, but everyone could and should.

Comment by John

Thank you George. Nice to know you listened to at least one thing I said.

Comment by Rob

That’s good to hear, but I simply look at the talents and abilities of the people who comment here every single day as a sign that you know what you are doing. Hell that was one of the reasons I started reading (no offence to your posts!).

Frankly if it stops scaring us then we are probably doing something wrong. Nothing worth doing is ever easy… someone who worked with Andy should know that.

(Andy – Someone who worked with RobC should know that too)


Comment by Rob Mortimer

oh campbell knows what hes fucking doing alright. hes fleecing the fuck out of us all. except me. im your fucking guardian angel but do i get the fucking respect im due? do i fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

Does anyone else think it’s funny Rob is writing about responsibility, relevance and relationships? He insults everyone he meets, likes Queen and spends all his cash on fucking tech shit and weird furniture.

Comment by Billy Whizz

its fucking adland billy. those words have a completely different fucking meaning. same goes for words like “talent” and “creative”. its all fucking fantasyland but you make a good fucking point about campbell because even david fucking lynch couldnt conjure up a plot so fucking twisted that campbell would be a role model for responsibility, relevance and relationships.

Comment by andy@cynic

That is a very good point that I hadn’t actually considered. Good job I have no credibility left losing isn’t it …

Comment by Rob

Do planners always talk this much amongst themselves or are you lot the exception?

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

are you calling me a fucking planner? thats fucking fighting talk that is ciaran.

Comment by andy@cynic

but to answer your question, only campbell is this bad. the only reason the rest of us fucking join in is because we cant believe the shit he spouts and we need to make sure were not having a nightmare.

Comment by andy@cynic

Alas, we’re all planners, the world’s in a state of chassis as Sean O’C said. But, some are more planners than others.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

just like were all fucking whores then.

Comment by andy@cynic

For God’s sake Andy, of course we’re all whores, you weren’t trying to say you had the slightest doubt were you? Some of the nicest people I know are whores. Just think of England they tell me.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

some of campbells best friends are whores and thats not even a fucking insult. the one eyed prick literally fucking befriends whores and has them work for him. getting his wife to accept this without chopping off his balls is one of the great fucking strategies of its time. of course he had no fucking balls to begin with which might be how he gets away with it.

Comment by andy@cynic

Can you stop making me sound like a pervert – or you – you’re perfectly aware WHY and HOW I use my “street planners” and there’s not a sordid element in it, well, if you discount all the stories they tell me about German businessmen.

Comment by Rob

Despite the comments on this post going off on their usual tangent – bar John and George – I do hope this post is of use to some, though I would say it’ll only really mean something to people who want to leave their mark, not just take out their salary.

Comment by Rob

Nice one. This post is like ‘Linchpin’ minus the touchy-feely.
PS I don’t normally comment here as I don’t like the swearing, but I do lurk. See you in Sydney.

Comment by eaon

im impressed your convent even lets you use the fucking internet.

and if you dont like swearing then for fucks sake dont meet campbell because he talks like a docker with tourettes.

Comment by andy@cynic

you forgot to mention how you can achieve the “relationship” side of things by going into business with one of a beardy billionaires best mates and then living off their relationship for 7 years. now that is fucking advice worth having.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s not an example of how to fulfill the ‘relationship’ pillar Andy, that’s a demonstration of ‘devious strategy’.

Comment by Rob

I feel used.

Comment by George

At least I’m grateful for what you did. Or didn’t realise you did.

Comment by Rob

The right kind of fear is a good thing. If we look into evolution the first sensory perception was used by the amygdala to preserve life. It’s fear that is the motive for my thinking on that space capitalism post that I’ll write up later 🙂

Even fearlessness is based on fear. A fear of being inconsequential or not brave enough. It’s all interpretation but framed in the right way fear is a good friend. As is anger.

Comment by Charles Frith

You flirt, you know how much anger ‘does it’ for me.

Comment by Rob

Great post Rob. Thanks.

Comment by Rafik

Thanks? Is this your way of saying you’ll ignore everything I said?

Wise move.

Now, any news you need to tell me about???

Comment by Rob

When you get a 15000 words email soon, just remember you asked for it 😀

Comment by Rafik

When will I learn to not be interested in how others are doing!

Comment by Rob

Dammit. And there I was reading self-help books on how to lose the fear…
Seriously though, much appreciated advice, big thanks. One of the best lessons I’ve learned (in my comparitively short career) is to be pro-active, take responsibilty & be yourself. Which can be hard when bogged down in the long hours, egos and happen to be a tad zany. Will embrace the fear from now on!
Btw – ‘ancient’ my arse!

Comment by Jessica Brookes

thats funny jessica because the older the fucker gets, the more his face looks just like an arse.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hi Jessica, nice to have you pop by.

Glad you found it useful, but you’re the last person I’d think would find it valuable because I know you do stuff rather than sit there and wait for it to be handed to you on a plate.

I’m in Sydney later this month, so hopefully we can catch up then.

PS: Ignore Andy, though I assume you worked that out already.

Comment by Rob

This isn’t a post about advertising Robert, it’s a post about life.

Comment by Lee Hill

I would add a 3rd way to improve the odds, you’re good at getting others to do your work for you, taking the credit where it isn’t due and dodging blame when it is. This isn’t a recommendation of course, but some people have got very far, very fast using this route, at certain places.
I read a quote from a decent suit who said his first agency was Leo Burnett, and after a great indoctrination into politics, he went to BBH to learn about advertising…

And obviously, making the tea properly should be a fifth

Comment by northern

Being petty, I would say the evil methodology you’re highlight here is still about ‘relationships’, even if it represents the ability to manipulate them for your own personal gain.

Bit like marriage, hahaha.

[That’s a joke Jill, just in case you are reading this]

Comment by Rob

And tea is DEFINITELY about relationships … both interms of knowing that is the way to your heart and knowing exactly how you like it to get what you want.

How’s that for post rationalisation?

Comment by Rob

A plannner to the end – and being a good post rationaliser probably comes under relevance too
By the way, thanks to th serendipity of the web, your blog has a groupon ad for all you can eat in Nottingham, spooky or what? Your place of origin I mean,not dietery habits

Comment by northern

why the fuck do you need a groupon for some shithole in nottingham when every fucker knows the only payment people accept is a bullet to the fucking brain.

Comment by andy@cynic

One of the best planners I’ve personally worked with (at TBWA would you believe) mentioned something about ‘getting found out’.
He used to tinker with briefs, strategy documents and the fundamental basis of his ideas right up until he ran out of time, terrified he’d missed something or that that there was something better.

I share the fear of getting found out, but in my case it’s probably justified

Comment by northern

Given I’ve just gone back into a meeting and meddled with everything we agreed just 24 hours ago, I relate to your ex-colleagues habits … except he did it because he was awesome and I did it because I’m errrrrm, not.

Hence the ‘get find out’ fear.

Comment by Rob

and there I was thinking arrogance that was the key to art/adland success.. turns out all I need to do is shit myself a couple of times. 😀

seriously, I have to echo jessica’s sentiments here – thanks for the shift in perception about the fear (which drives my work too). I get a bit sick and tired of it sometimes, but perhaps I just need to HTFU.

Comment by lauren

first it’s anger, now it’s fear – I am liking this place more and more, I feel normal!

Comment by andrea

if you think campbell is normal youre in a worse fucking position than you started in.

Comment by andy@cynic

I never assumed normality…on either side!

Comment by andrea

I’m in a similar boat but a few years off. Does that bode well?

Comment by Aditya

youre doomed. unless marcus sorts the fucking industry out. does that help?

Comment by andy@cynic

He will. Give him time.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Hi Andy, you seem a bit cynical. ^_^

I think the most basic fear, of adequacy, is something that just about anyone working today, certainly in a non-mechanized system, must feel, whether latent or manifest.

At a deeper level, I think Andy Grove’s aphorism, “only the paranoid survive” is a good place to be, work-wise. — If you’re not constantly looking for how to move forward, how to improve things, for yourself, for your company, for your client and every stakeholder you can think of, what’s the point?

Comment by Aditya

the comments on this post are scaring the shit out of me. people sound like they actually like campbell. dont. he ruined my life, hell ruin yours.

Comment by andy@cynic

I still think he’s a bastard if that helps.

Comment by Billy Whizz

no. but i fucking like your loyalty.

Comment by andy@cynic

As much praise as this post earned, I think it is much due to relationships whether you get ahead, doing a good job, or not. This is why it is important to work with the right people where you fit in when it comes to certain attitudes.

Regarding the survey, if you have to work at a place where your boss is an asshole and toad (and this is what everyone there expects of him or her, probably him), then I do understand why no one wanted the bosses job for fear of having to behave the same way in this environment.

I just made a proper tea, Mr northern ;).

Comment by Evolution

Well played. I assumed you warmed the pot?

Comment by northern

I warmed the teapot AND the mug :).

Comment by Evolution


Comment by northern

I salute you! The fear of failure has been one of the biggest motivators in my life so far. Being cynical is seen as being an undesirable trait, however it should be embraced! A cynical mind is a sane mind.

Comment by Paul

To push forward, we have to face our “Giants” -If not we are at a standstill at our crossroads.

Comment by Penny

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