Along with so many in our industry, I've been riveted by Digiday's ongoing series of "Confessions" articles. For the uninitiated, someone in a particular role in the business goes incognito and spills the beans about how life really is in their particular field of endeavor. We've heard the "Confessions of..." the agency media planner, the display ad seller, the DSP salesperson, the midsize agency CEO, the affiliate marketing specialist and so on. Digiday editor Brian Morrissey has become the Julian Assange of online media.
The "Confessions" read more like accusations. Corrupt, indifferent buyers; predatory, unprepared sellers; airhead bosses; zombie companies. This week's confessional focused on outing all the "douchebags" in our business, ranging from know it all pundits (HEY NOW!!) to nerds to "hot girls" in the sales and agency ranks. Kind of amazing that we all get up every morning and wander into this swamp of a business, huh? And exactly when did we stop being the future of marketing and start becoming a spinoff of Jersey Shore?
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My job is kind of unique in that I get to talk to a lot of people - buyers, sellers, sales leaders, agency management, money people - who I don't actually sell anything to. Sometimes I'm interviewing team members prior to a sales workshop; at others I'm talking with fellow panelists in preparation for a conference. Dozens of 20- and 30-minute conversations a year, hundreds over the course of a decade. Along the way, people tell me things.
Idealism and Optimism are Not Dead. I'm not talking here about the delusional hype that gets spewed at conferences or in investor pitches. No, I'm referring here to smart people who remain committed to value creation and the development of great people, companies and ideas. I talk to them all the time. Perhaps they're not a majority, but at very least they are a strong plurality of those in our business. We don't hear enough from them publicly because it's more fashionable to piss and moan about how hard and dysfunctional it all is.
Technology Isn't the Be All and End All. The inevitability of ad technology as the driving force in our business is, according to many of the people I talk to, significantly overstated. Tech gets the multiples, predatory pricing gets the garbage business, but quality environments and committed audiences still win the economic loyalty of clients.
Smart is Good. Wise is Better. Just about every time someone asks me for input on a possible career move, they start with "Doug, these guys are scary smart." But despite the surplus of ridiculously pristine resumes and educational pedigrees in our space, people are telling me about that they' much rather work for a solid leader who's been around the block than the latest wunderkind.
Nonetheless, There is a Massive Leadership Gap. The best middle managers don't stay middle managers for nearly long enough. With so many new opportunities springing up, this vital layer gets too quickly depleted. As a result, the leader of the company ends up with little idea what the average seller or planner is actually thinking and doing, and those same planners and sellers remain disconnected from the meaningful missions of their companies and agencies. You want to fix this? It's all about the grooming and retention of middle management.
Do you have your own "Confession" to add? Fire away.
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