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

The Most Contentious Part Of Advertising …
January 19, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

I’ve been doing this adlark for quite a long time.

In that time I’ve seen and heard some major incidents and arguments that culminated in some of the following:

Pissing in the bosses fax machine.
Chopping a boardroom table in half with a chainsaw.
A full on fist-fight in a client meeting.

And while those are pretty extreme reactions – driven by a whole range os issues and circumstances – there has been one thing that has continuously raised the ire of every person I’ve worked with.

Can you guess what it is?

Yes, that’s right … timesheets.

I have seen grown men and women literally cry over timesheets.


For fucks sake.

Yes, I know they’re a pain and an annoyance, but it’s hardly the most tasking of jobs is it.

Seriously, how long do they take to do?

10 seconds? 20 seconds?

It’s certainly less than the time most of us take to check out Facebook during office hours. [Except in my case, it’s classed as research]

I remember Andy once getting a “call” from the accounts department because it had come to their attention he had failed to fill in his timesheet for almost 2 years.


I was quite proud of him when I heard that … that’s overachieving in underachieving to the extreme.

And when they told him he had to do them, he told them “if you’ve not needed it for 2 years, you don’t need them now”.

But they did and he did.

104 weeks worth … all under an ‘internal miscellaneous job’ code.

Evil genius bastard.

[N.B. He joined me in starting cynic shortly after this event, which I now know was no coincidence]

Of course the timesheet model of remuneration is inherently flawed and outdated – and many companies have found alternative ways to charge – however for many, it’s still the only method that is accepted for billing and while it’s annoying, the reaction it generates in people is far greater than it deserves.

There’s anger … real, undiluted, unfiltered anger.

You can make people work at the weekend, rob them of promotion, take away any overtime payment but order them to do their timesheet and it’s like all out war.

So here’s the question: Why?

Why do you think taking 2 minutes a day to fill a timesheet is met with such anger and distain.

It’s a serious question and one that I [think] I know the answer to, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and – if you can be arsed – your idea of what could be done to change it, without a complete revamp of the whole timesheet system.

Yes I know I asked you to give me your thoughts on yesterdays post and I’m only allowed to do this once a decade, but go on, tell me what you’d say – and recommend – if Sir Martin called you up and demanded you help him stamp out the anti timesheet uprising.

Think of it as an A[P]SOTW pre-cursor/training assignment.

Right, now it’s over to you.

53 Comments so far
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As a photographer, I wonder what would be the reaction if I provided a timesheet of hours spent on a job compared to renumeration incurred…. Might open a few eyes.

Comment by Alex

Good point Alex, but why do you do it – especially if you’re not being recompensed as you should.

Serious question that I think I know the answer to, ha!

Comment by Rob

Yep, obvious answer – it’s what I do. You don’t become a photographer to make money.

But, whinge time, it would be nice to have a little perspective sometimes from clients as to the amount of work that goes into a shoot…

Comment by Alex Weltlinger (@alexweltlinger)

timesheets? youve written a fucking post about timesheets. fuck me campbell, whats next, reviewing expense claim forms? just when i thought you couldnt get any fucking lower you pull this bastard out the bag. and that is not something to be fucking proud of.

Comment by andy@cynic

Wait till you see my post on the comfort and style of Birkenstocks. It’s awesome.

Comment by Rob

tell sorrell hes rich enough and fuck off.

Comment by andy@cynic

fucking timesheets. im in total fucking shock.

Comment by andy@cynic

you write a post with pissing and fighting in it and you go off and take us down the road of fucking timesheets. you sick, sick fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

because we are in the ‘creative’ industry…

I used to get my interns to do them as part of their master class of excellence training..

Comment by niko

I think time sheets are painful because people think it shows senior figures how much time they waste (on personal choices or general job ineffectiveness) and this leaves them vulnerable to negative reviews or dismissal.

Comment by Pete

I haven’t got an idea how to change this without overhauling the whole remuneration system.

Comment by Pete

I used to like that presentation you gave clients about the cynic royalty system. “We don’t charge like lawyers because no one likes how lawyers charge and we need you to see us as providing valuable answers not delaying problems.”

Comment by Pete

is that right before he heard what they wanted us to do, got excited and say wed do it for free because “that sounds so cool”. twat.

Comment by andy@cynic

That brings back memories. Bad ones.

Comment by DH

Haha, yes.

Comment by Pete

you do all fucking realise the only reason you got paid is because i would kick him out the fucking door. you do fucking know that dont you? you all owe me a debt of fucking gratitude and ill be calling some of that in very fucking soon so be fucking prepared.

Comment by andy@cynic

I love how something from years ago gets talked about as if it was only yesterday.

Comment by Rob

if thats the fucking case id love to see what job number campbell puts down for all the blogging bollocks and holidays he does on dans fucking dime. that would be real fucking creativity right fucking there.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Rob

OK, so you’ve got a possible insight, now what are you going to do with it – or have you turned into one of “those” planners and now it’s up to other people? Haha.

Comment by Rob

tell sorrell to follow the enron/planner model and post rationalise the answer you fucking want.

Comment by andy@cynic

except hed tell you thats what they already do.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by andy@cynic

It’s because people don’t like their “creativity” to be commodified as billable time. It’s because they don’t like the idea that their bosses want them to justify their value. And it’s because they’re inherently so disorganised that they can’t keep track of what they’re doing.

None of this applies to Andy who, at least, has the balls not to cave.

Comment by John

im the fucking arnie of adland. or i was till i got fucked over by campbell and bought a moneypit in fucking canada.

Comment by andy@cynic

What do I win?

Comment by John

lets fucking face it that the only thing worth having is a reprieve from having to visit this fucking blog.

Comment by andy@cynic

The way to change it is to only accept clients who dont demand them. Now that’s 30 seconds of my pitiful life that Ive wasted thinking about timesheets. Will never do that again.

Comment by John

till companies stop valuing procurement directors more than marketing directors its not going to fucking happen for the big boys. we did it differently. we hired people who had direct access to the people at the fucking top. yes george thats you. only reason we had you,

Comment by andy@cynic

Careful Andy, that’s almost insightful.

Comment by Rob

who do i send my fucking enormous bill to?

Comment by andy@cynic

Will the next post be crowd-sourcing opinions as to why people who wear sandals have dubious taste in music? Thought not.

Comment by John

thats only because there arent enough fucking sad bastards to pull it off.

Comment by andy@cynic

unless you count germany.

Comment by andy@cynic

Fuck off, Andy.

Comment by Marcus

Unlike Andrew, I like this post.
Time sheets perform an interesting role in many agencies lives. It is widely accepted they only give an indication of time spent on projects and yet they form the foundation for all remuneration negotiation.
There is the belief the figures will “all even out in the end” but I am not so sure. If anything, clients may find they are paying more per job because an employee has placed incorrect hours in their timesheet to appear busy during the day/week.
This is not meant as a direct criticism, It is meant to highlight how agencies seek a financial model where every second of their employees day is financed by someone else. As we’ve seen from the legal profession, this approach is universally loathed and has resulted in clients minimising timelines available for job completion to “balance the books”, which directly impacts the quality and effectiveness of the output. Time sheets do highlight one valuable bit of information. By focusing on direct billable hours, minimised expenditure and functional environments, agency hierarchy have all but written off the commercial value of the creativity they produce.

Comment by George

what the fuck were you thinking? im not talking about what youve said (because theres no fucking way im going to read it) im talking about writing such a fucking long response to anything campbell has shitted out on this blog. i know mary and the kids are away but theres no fucking need to turn to this bollocks for company when i know for a fucking fact you have a bottle of johnnie w blue in your fucking house.

Comment by andy@cynic

To be accurate Andrew, I had a bottle of blue and then you came to visit us during the holiday period.

Comment by George

well i needed something to get through the days when it was just you and me left in the house.

Comment by andy@cynic

Bloody hell, now that’s a response – and I couldn’t agree with you more, especially with the point that timesheets have now become a blanket to cover the fact adland has sold the value of what they do down the river.

Not entirely sure clients have minimised timelines for job completion because they think they have been paying too much for work due to bad timesheet management – but I do agree everyone ends up losing due to the constraints of time and budget that is available to do what is needed. Of course, given many clients now view agencies as ‘production executioners’ rather than ‘problem solvers’ has further impacted our ability to charge/value what we do … but that’s as much the industries fault as the clients.

Comment by Rob

get a fucking room you sad planning twats.

Comment by andy@cynic

Maybe schools should start teaching math using timesheets so the future poor will be prepared for when they’re older.

If jobs exist by then.

Do I get a prize?

Comment by Billy Whizz

It’s MATHS Billy, not math.

You can’t do it if you only have one number so think of it as needing to be expressed as a plural.

That said, I’m quite impressed with your idea. It’s evil and would never happen, but it’s quite genius at the same time.

Who’d of thought … I know I certainly never did.

Comment by Rob

be gentle on the soft twat, he comes from a country that spells words with a z instead of an s, calls z, zee instead of zed and still thinks theyre a global power when theyre chinas fucking bitch.

nice idea billy, if you need a job youve just made a fucking good impression on sorrell and murdoch.

Comment by andy@cynic

I think nobody even knows why they hate doing timesheets so much anymore (besides them being a minor pain in the ass). Could it be a case of Mob mentality kind of like in the Stephenson monkeys experiment?

Comment by Rafik

Just as a the guiding motivtion of every media agency is to extract revenge on ad agencies for all those years of being given the end slot in the pitch, timesheets are the accounts department revenge for being made to sit in the basement.

Comment by Richard

I’m ex-agency freelance and I work from home a lot. I keep my own timesheets (back of diary not dated software hell) for on-going projects because *I get paid by the day/hour*.

Maybe if we paid agency people for the hours they put on their timesheet…no wait, you’d just end up paying ‘internal miscellaneous job’ hours for everyone farting about on facebook before they went home.

Comment by gemma

It’s because people forget, or put them off because it’s been a long day and they want to get off that it’s a problem. suddenly you find you haven’t done them for three days, you can’t remember what you did, so you put it off and it gets worse. It turns into a week, then a month and you’re fucked.
I worked somewhere where evil accounts wouldn’t give you you’re expenses until your timesheets were up to date.Brutal but effective. I’m ashamed to admit at one point I had a month of timesheets v nearly £1,000 in expenses, leading to hours going through emails and diaries trying to piece together what I’d been doing for the last four weeks.
Incidentally, you wouldn’t believe how much was put against wasteful, evil, laughable Media Arts workshops……..

Comment by northern

Or ‘youporn in meeting viewing’.

Comment by Rob

‘client entertainment’

I’ve never had to log time interviewing hookers, but when I was working on hair straighteners I did have to log interviewing fashion models as ‘research’
True story, I went on hairdressing training session and managed to burn an eyewateringly fit girl’s next and mangle her long hair so bad she had to go for a bob
They didn’t let me do another one

Comment by northern

what job number do you put commenting on campbells blog or is it treated like youre going “for a big shit” so its overfuckinglooked?

and campbell beats every fucker because hes not only managed to put hooker interviews on his timesheet, he once got sorrell to pay his expenses when he took 6 fucking hot strippers to lunch “for research”. if he wasnt such a fucking pain in the ass or a planner, i could like the guy. maybe.

Comment by andy@cynic

2 years??
Andy, you just went up 2 points in my book.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

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