Why I Hate Ad Agencies


I’m a reluctant entrepreneur.

When I worked for others, I collected paychecks at a slew of agencies across America–– everything from a two-person shop, to the world’s largest agency under one roof. I worked at industrial B2B shops, retail shops, creative hot shops and package good shops. Bureaucratic shops, dictatorial shops.

I was crappy at office politics. Too much the stubborn Irishman.

My agency travels taught me that our business attracts smart, talented people. But talent often comes with petty infighting, neurotic behavior and insecurity running amuck.

The enemy was us. But clients, clients I understood.

I empathized with them. Client issues with work were usually based on fear of failure. We creative people were potential land mines to CMO careers. If our thinking was self-serving, creative for creative’s sake, we were dangerous.

But if we created work that connected with a client’s audience–– work that worked, work that engaged, informed and entertained, sales would go up, clients would be heroes and we’d all live another day.

No one argues a sales curve going north.

Yes, clients were easily understood, but agency people? Not so much. There were too many psychologically damaged souls, Shakespearean characters ranting on the peat. Turf wars, petty battles, pin cushion backstabbing.

So, in 1997, I helped form a new agency. One where strategy, media, and creative people played together nicely, working directly with clients to solve real marketing challenges.

We kept drama low, passion high, and worked toward making good things happen. Beholden not to office politics, but to the client’s sales curve.

That was almost 18 years ago. This business has changed a lot since then. Now we do what we always did, plus a slew of new media and new tricks.

But one thing hasn’t changed. We’re still communicating with human beings. And until they change, we believe empathy and creativity will be the keys to any marketing success.

So that’s what we’re about–– connecting with people.

That, and not acting like an ad agency.