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

Does Fitting In, Mean Tuning Out?
August 8, 2012, 6:14 am
Filed under: Comment

I was once asked to explain the best bit of advice I’d ever received, to which I replied,

“Don’t listen to anyone’s advice”.

I wasn’t being facetious, I meant it.

Adland is a mad career.

Sure it’s fun and exciting and volatile but it’s also utterly, utterly stupid.

We talk about systems and processes and professionalism and testing but I don’t think there has been one genuinely epic – and effective – brand idea that has come from it.

Not one.

Sure there are a bunch of things that have achieved a certain level of success – big levels of success – but epic?


Don’t think so.

The thing is, all the ideas that have infiltrated and shifted culture have come from the minds of the pleasantly mad.

Whether that’s Bernbach or Hegarty … Wieden or Kennedy … every last one of them achieved glory for who they are and how they think, not what system they followed or proprietary tool they created.

But now adland is trying to filter that all out.

The weirdos, the interesting, the opinionated and the mad are being consigned to the ‘where are they now’ dustbin, to be replaced by suit wearing sycophants, whose greatest achievement is resilience and persistence within their corporate structure.

And we’re letting that happen.

In our bid to try and find ‘shortcuts to success’, we’ve forgone trying new things – except for the odd experiment that’s done more for PR hype than intrigue – and we’re following a post–rationalised ‘system’ that is inherently flawed because we’re attempting to deconstruct what someone once successfully pulled off without ever realising so much of it had to do with who they were, the life experiences they’d had and where the world was at that given time.

Of course it’s not just us contributing to this situation, it’s also the clients.

The one’s who want an easy life … the ladies and gentlemen whose career strategy is to not deviate from the pre-existing corporate process so they can get promoted in 2 years as opposed to doing something amazing and reach greater heights even sooner.

The one’s who look at the price rather than the return.

The individuals who focus on what their board want rather than their audience.

The frightened sheep.

The tragic thing is whether it’s on the agency or client side, this passive progressive attitude gets results – at least in terms of career.

But what happens if you achieve success following someone else’s system?

What happens if you get a top job because you simply walked in another persons footsteps?

Sure, it might feel good for a while.

Sure, it might get you a bigger job within the next few months.

Sure, you can enjoy the lifestyle the money brings you … but what about when you look in the mirror and ask yourself, “did you deserve it?”

Without doubt there’s people out there – in that very situation – who would say “yes, I do”, but I’m not so sure that’s true.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that for a lot of people, that’s what they say to protect themselves from the truth, which this quote sums up:

“The reward for conformity is everyone likes you, except yourself.”

For me, the best job in the World is when you are hired for who you are, what you believe, what you’ve created or done.

It’s not about filling a seat or performing a role … it’s when you are asked to do what you do, regardless of the system or the process that surrounds the company.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think a lot of people feel this way – especially in adland – so the fact so many of us end up endorsing the results from whichever proprietary tool we are forced to use or that we subdue our personal beliefs and personalities in an attempt to ‘be accepted’ is only doing us – and the industry – harm both now and in the longer term.

Look, I’m not saying you can be a prick or blatantly ignore whatever you think is wrong – however I am saying that amazing rarely happens following someone else’s rules – so if you want to stand a chance of getting ahead, fuck anybody else’s advice and just go with what you believe is right because someday, you’re going to get fired anyway and you’ll feel much better if its because of something you did wrong than something someone else told you to do.


PS: Yes, I do appreciate this post could be read as ‘giving advice’ – but as I know no one either reads or accepts anything I say, it doesn’t really matter, does it!

31 Comments so far
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Are frightened sheep the same people who read Dr Seuss for business advice?

Comment by Pete

I saw what you did there. Political.

Comment by DH

This is a superb post Rob. It’s so good to see you writing more of these things because you have a wealth of experience and can claim to have achieved your accolades on your terms.

Lots of great advice to be found in here but I particularly love the “The reward for conformity is everyone likes you, except yourself” quote and the reminder we’re all going to eventually get fired so it’s better for it to happen on your terms than following the instruction of someone else. Or the companies proprietary tool.

All really good points and despite you saying you shouldn’t follow anyone else’s advice, I think in this case I will make an exception.

Comment by Pete

Funny how Rob says you should ignore advice but hands it out like a pedo hands out sweets at the county fair. For once I’ll follow this one though.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Good insult commenting Billy. Andy will be proud.

Comment by DH

Yes, well done Billy. Very impressive for once.

As for “The reward for conformity is everyone likes you, except yourself” – I found that recently and just fell in love with it. It’s a line for Converse if I ever heard one. Hang on, Converse are our client – better call them now.

Comment by Rob

I agree with Pete’s (2nd) comment but a point that particulary resonated with me was the fixation to seek shortcuts to success.
Maybe it was also like that back when I was a junior but if it was, I never got anywhere with it. The sense of entitlement in many people meet is extroidinary with average people demanding ridiculous salary packages and titles. All this career inflation is doing is undermining industries quality and standards but as I have realised what a bitter, old man I sound, I think it would be best to leave it there.
Good post Robert. More like this please.

Comment by George

Would you like me to order you some new slippers?

Comment by Billy Whizz

You are sounding awfully close to a Daily Mail reader. On the bright side, you could qualify for a recurring role on ‘Grumpy Old Men’.

Thanks for the nice compliment – and for what it’s worth, I do feel the same. Of course not everyone is like that – in fact I have some wonderful people in the office that show it’s not a universal attitude – but there’s enough who do behave that way that made me write a post for Friday that I think you will like. Really like.

Comment by Rob

Oprah alert! Oprah alert!

Comment by Billy Whizz

I’m screwed.

Comment by John

No you’re not. Shoreditch is.

Comment by DH

Don’t you mean you wish you were?

Comment by Rob

Why is there a photo of Billy heading this post?

Comment by DH

Fuck you.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Don’t you mean the one on the far right?

Comment by Rob

And you can fuck off too.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Judging by the high standard of posts you’ve been writing recently, Andrew should go away more often. Good read.

Comment by Lee Hill

Let’s face it, allegedly writing better posts isn’t the only reason you said that is it.

Comment by Rob

Excellent points of course. It’s astounding that an industry built on original ideas is more conservative than the WI.
The only thing I’d add is that it’s a skill kowing when to flout convention and when to shut your mouth. Coming from who doesn’t get this right most times, it’s a bit rich, but it does help to know when to stand your ground and when to give a bit.

Comment by northern

Great point. One I tell others but almost always never practice. Bugger.

Comment by Rob

To be honest, neither do I. I’d love to say I get my own way through artful reading of situations and people, but to be honest, I just keep at people until they give in.
Woe is me (and them)

Comment by northern

I thought you just bribed them with youporn compilations whereas I just bribe them with the promise they won’t have to deal with me when it’s agreed.

Comment by Rob

The bribery is with tea made properly – and the promise I might actually shut up

Comment by northern

This is why I like W+K’s policy of hiring people from all different areas and backgrounds. I mean, hiring you is the perfect example of how crazy hiring policies can make good work… right? 😉

We said a while back that advertising needs a PiL agency. Maybe we need a Factory Records agency too.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

Whatever do you mean. Actually I know exactly what you mean and no doubt Andy will be very proud of you.

That’s all I need, Andy replacements when he’s away. Doomed everyday I look at it, ha.

Comment by Rob

I’m doomed too.

Comment by John

I thought I found a nice line of being both insulting and complimentary in the same sentence!

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

We’re all doomed John. Every last one of us.

Comment by DH

Love the post. Speaks to me on a very personal level.

Comment by Thomas

[…] + The Reward For Conformity Is Everyone Likes You, But You […]

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