Big Egos, Thick Bureaucracy, Tangled Business Pitches

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NOELLE WEAVER: I got a call recently from a talent recruiter. The job description was roughly this: “we’re looking for a new business person who is aggressive, can juggle multiple balls, can think on their feet and think both creatively and strategically, can manage people and expectations and organize the agency’s new business efforts from active prospecting program to RFPs to agency pitches. This is for an office headquarters of a big agency but you’d be working with the regional branches and helping them with their efforts. And reporting into an SVP who’s also in charge of department.”

Wow. That’s a lot for one person. It also sounded exactly like what I had run away from several years ago and the insanity that -- almost -- drove me away from advertising all together. That got me to thinking about some of the differences I’ve experienced between the way big agencies and small agencies tend to conduct new biz.

At big agencies, pursuing a client was more often about delivering to the bottom line than it was about the creative potential.

Many times, creative was being developed AS the brief was being developed and often, the brief was retrofitted to fit the work [not the thinking].

Timetable? Pitch calendar? Process? Never heard of it.

The big agencies had so many layers of management and egos to appease that decisions didn’t get made until 5:00 the day before when everyone was aching to go home. That usually meant the new business team and consequently the art studio [modern day heroes who don’t get enough credit!] would pull an all nighter to make everyone else look good.

How many times did we brief the CEO right before the meeting rather than ‘bother’ him with the thinking and details along the way?

This more often than not, resulted in deck changes three hours before the meeting.

It was hard. It was stressful. And I suffered from a few migraines because of it.

When people ask me about new business these days, I stress the need for collaboration and pride from every single person who works at the agency. Because every single person should benefit from a win and every single person should, in some way, allow themselves to get involved.

There was a Yahoo! B2B ad back in the early 90’s that read to the effect of “New Business is a pride-draining, money-sucking, ego-driven charade…unless, of course, you win.”

I had it hanging on the back of my office door at one of my old agencies. And while at the time I felt it was true. I now know it doesn’t have to be. It’s pretty easy to stop the insanity these days and best of all, even have a little fun.
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