The Evils of Ad Agency E-mail

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BART CLEVELAND: How many times have you read an e-mail, been irritated, immediately sent a volley and then discovered that you completely misinterpreted the message? You misread the tone of voice didn’t you? It happens everyday. That’s just the beginning of my rub with e-mail.

Why would a small agency allow human contact to be replaced with electronic? Sure it’s an indispensable tool, but it has an abusive side each of us knows all too well. When I begin responding to an e-mail that has irritated me I try to be careful not to let my frustration or anger show and I can’t do it. I’m either so careful with my words I don’t communicate my position with any passion, or I'm so caustic it's counterproductive. When I am wise, I stop, rise from my chair and expend two or three calories walking down the hall to the person’s office. Funny, that short walk always helps my demeanor to change. My respect and care for that person returns. Seldom is anything too heated exchanged and good is almost always accomplished.

E-mail steals the emotional food we need to do what we do. It’s easy for my writers and art directors to submit work to me via e-mail, but they dare not. Ideas should be discussed face to face. I need to see the creative person while I look at their work. I need to see if they love what they’re sharing with me. Do they believe in it? Are tears welling in their eyes when I say, “start over?” Their body language and level of excitement tempers how I react. I recently had a writer read a radio script to me that was fantastic. Radio is so hard to do well and the writer had really done something special. It was extremely funny and I laughed so hard I was crying. The writer was jazzed. He nailed it and I told him how fantastic it was with great swinging of the arms. I don’t think an e-mail would have had the same joyous effect on the young man.

E-mails don’t look into another person’s eyes. E-mails are technical. Technical kills creativity. You want to feed your agency’s creativity? Take the walk.
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