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

Don’t Be Like Them …

One of the problems I have with adland is their belief that they must resemble the client.

Not just in terms of the client’s business, but in how they speak, dress and act.

They’re wrong.

The whole point of an agency is to be objective.

Of course to do that means you have to know the business.

Have to know the agendas and goals of the individuals and the company as a whole.

And have to know the competitive and social landscape.

But our skill – beyond making work that captures the imagination that makes the business work – is to see the World differently to our clients while being totally aligned to the goals we’re all working towards is.

I’m hearing more and more companies forgetting this.

I’m hearing of more and more situations where people are being evaluated less on the work they do and more on how they present themselves.


I cannot tell you how angry and upset this makes me.

Putting aside the fact that people should be allowed to be themselves – especially in the creative industry – the fact is, if you only have people who think like you and agree with you, then you end up in a situation where your value is basically diminished and the role of the agency is nothing more than simply an extension of the marketing department.

Contrary to what you think, this is not my attempt to justify how I dress.

I know I have a ‘unique’ approach to fashion, but it’s not because I want to be noticed, it’s because I have a ‘unique’ approach to fashion.

It’s who I am.

It means I am comfortable in my own skin.

It means I will be utterly honest to my clients and colleagues.

That doesn’t mean I’m always right, but it does mean I’ll always be honest.

It also means my clients are judging me on the work I do, not the clothes I wear.

Which is exactly as it should be.

Sure, first impressions count but in my experience, good clients place far more value on first interactions because they understand they’ll never get anywhere great if all they do is surround themselves with people who think, act and see things the same as them.

As one of my old senior Nike clients once said to me …

“Middle management don’t like to be challenged because they want to keep things the same. Senior management want to be challenged because they want to keep things improving”. 

Of course not everyone acts or thinks like that – and often there are reasons for it that are due more to company culture than individual beliefs – but in his particular case, if we weren’t pushing or challenging his beliefs or ideas then he would question why we were there, which is why he was one of the best clients I ever worked with and learnt from. 

17 Comments so far
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You have the advantage that no one wants you to be like them .

Comment by DH

if campbell dressed in a fucking 3 piece, saville row suit and had sensible hair he still would look like a fucking alien. more than he does now. its his only fucking talent i actually rate of his.

Comment by andy@cynic

Remember the time I did dress in a suit – for that Coke meeting at the races – and I won the ‘best dressed award’. I’ll never forget how pissed off all the women were who had spent hours dressing themselves up to look extra beautiful. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

“That doesn’t mean I’m always right, but it does mean I’ll always be honest.”

If only you realized this when we worked together.

Comment by DH

good job i fucking realised it before i started working with the fucker.

Comment by andy@cynic


[Also known as ‘having it repeatedly smashed into my head’]

Comment by Rob

if agencies are hiring on looks over talent that fucking explains everything about the shit state of the industry.

Comment by andy@cynic

By looks, you mean appearance, rather than beauty.

Then again …

Comment by Rob

It amazes me you have to write about this but I know you are right because I’ve seen it happen. American corporate culture equates how you dress to the respect you are showing towards your clients and colleagues. Not what you do and your commitment to doing it well, your fashion. When did quality lose its value so badly?

Comment by George

When companies made more money from the process than the work.

Comment by Pete

I know …

I think part of it is this obsession with being seen as ‘team players’. While I am an advocate of what it should mean, the reality is it has ended up being about conforming rather than working together to reach a common goal/ambition.

Comment by Rob

So Rob gets hired so agencies can pretend they are all about individuality. Finally it all makes sense.

Comment by Bazza

Next level corporate diversity.

Comment by DH

Great, so I’m a checkbox on an HR KPI.

Comment by Rob

more like a blackfuckingmark.

Comment by andy@cynic

There are as many suit wearing people as there are Shoreditch adland parody looking ones, who are equally ineffective in their output.

Suits did not stop John Webster from being great. And The H in BBH had a mullet to go with his suits.

More and more it seems that clients and agency leaders are incapable of recognising fostering great work and/or how to kickstart it (as the Branson brief for his lounge).

So a proxy for quality becomes likability.

Comment by Niko

True … but back then, people judged – and paid – agency people on what they did, not how they looked.

Comment by Rob

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