There Is No Process, So Get Over It

One of the most fascinating things about our business is that we get anything done at all. 

Think about how most operations are run. I mean you couldn't make a car if you didn't have huge investment in detailed processes. You can't "wing" a car. You could try, but I'm pretty sure that the public would sue you into the stone age as thousands of people went careening into embankments.

But in advertising agencies it's like someone decided that we were exempt from all reason. Sure, there are process manuals and well-meaning production people who maintain schedules that no one follows, but over all it's complete chaos.

The new AMC show, The Pitch looks like it will be a case study in this phenomenon. How many pitches is an agency in every year? 20? 50? 100? You'd think with that many times doing the same thing there would be some sort of process for how a pitch is run. But there's not. At best we use the same PowerPoint template. And let me tell you, PowerPoint is not a process. It's barely qualified to be called a useful tool.

No matter how lauded an agency is for genius, or reviled for being hacks — no matter how big or small — every shop seems to treat each pitch like they've never seen one before. And every time we make the same mistakes: The account person or sales rep sits on the RFP for way too long, then the executive team eats up more time deciding if they want to get involved, the creative team bitches and whines that there's no time left, everybody gives up their weekend and at the last minute one industrious person wrestles control of the proposal, stirs the chaotic soup and we get a presentation. I guess you could call that a process. But then you could also call the gulf oil spill clean up a success, and we know how well that worked out.

Every agency has that process nazi, who loves to complain that the agency needs to get its act together. But the longer I stay in this business, the more convinced I become that we are beyond help on this front. Maybe it's the creativity of the whole thing that makes us believe that every pitch must be a unique masterpiece of the presentation universe. Maybe we're just a bunch of children pretending we know what we're doing. Whatever the reason, it's a time-honored tradition in this business that we are the mercy of egos, whims and delusions of grandeur that are all deaf to the needs of process and pipelines. So deal with it.

And if you are a process person, for the love of god, do not choose advertising as a profession. Believe me when I say you will change nothing in the end. All hope is lost behind these walls.

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