“I was so happy to see somebody finally calling a client out for this kind of thing, it's not just the bad behavior. It's the arrogance that really gets to me, which was my first reaction when I saw it,” said Nancy Hill, co-founder and CEO of Media Sherpas and former CEO of the 4A’s. “It was a way that he was so dismissive of ad agencies and what it is that they can do for a brand or for a company.”
The issues brought up from the tweet struck a nerve with other leaders in the industry, with a recurring theme that this is an all too common problem.
“If you stand up for your work in this way, you can be labeled as difficult to work with. And no agency wants to be that. So we stay silent. We don’t say anything,” said Kendra Schaaf, managing director at Mojo Supermarket. “We let people steal our ideas because we want clients to call us in the future. This is the primary reason you don’t hear stories like this. But we’re seeing more agencies believe in their work and their reputation.”
“And on the ‘No agency could have done this,’ I didn’t realize all the creative advertising geniuses were hiding at Coinbase. Looks like we’ve been recruiting from the wrong places,” Schaaf added.
David Demuth, CEO at Doner said, “I think more and more with clients building in-house operations and doing project-based engagements and things like that, it's bound to happen. For agencies, our ideas and our intellectual property, that's our currency. And when those things are being co-opted or stolen and we don't get paid for it, that's unfortunate.”
Lindsey Slaby, founder of Sunday Dinner added that she was “befuddled” as to why Armstrong “felt it necessary to have this Twitter dialogue,” but applauded Cavallo’s willingness to speak up. “I like to see leaders who are always looking forward and that can mean blowing things up. It takes very brave and new leaders to do this. People from different industries, different backgrounds, and with different points of view.”
And she added: “Since when is Accenture not creative either? [Global Chief Creative Officer] Neil Heymann and [CEO and Creative Chairman] David Droga happen to be at the helm and are two of the most visionary creative talents of our lifetime.”
Jeff Goodby, co-founder of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, said both clients and agencies have obligations, particularly now given the unraveling of agency of record relationships.
“In a promiscuous new world of project work, it’s up to the clients to keep these things straight. You are playing fast and loose with people’s creativity, craft and ultimately, livelihoods,” said Goodby, adding that clients need to consider: “Will your brand want that reputation? Brands are going to have to give a shit about things like this.”
This discussion is far from over and Cavallo, for one, believes it’s overdue. “I have received a few emails from industry leaders that I respect that have suggested that we get together and talk about how we can propel the industry forward and I look forward to that,” Cavallo said. “I hope that agencies and clients unpack why this struck a chord. I hope they unpack what is the deeper issue that motivated so many people in this instance and how can we create a level footing between agencies and clients based on mutual respect and value for the role of marketing in generating business success.”
Contributing: Keira Wingate