As business emerges from the depths of recession and looks set to fly high again, or at least free up the marketing budget a little, more and more potential clients will be contacting agencies for their help in achieving their marketing aims and, should the initial ‘chemistry meeting’ go well, they will undoubtedly be invited to visit the agency and “meet the team.”
I therefore thought it might be appropriate to list a few of the characters that you might meet on your visit, what they might actually do and how to spot them.
Agency titles have suffered from massive inflation in recent years. Nowadays, everyone from the tea boy upwards describes themselves as creative directors. Once recognised by a leather blouson, designer jeans, a silk shirt and a Liberty kerchief, todays creative directors seem to favour either the brutalist look of shaved head, nose ring, tattoos and a black on black ensemble; or look like American insurance salesmen after a bad day on the golf course.
Alone amongst agency staff, copywriters have no fashion sense. One description of agency personnel reads “they look as though they have covered themselves in superglue and launched themselves through an Oxfam shop window” and they have been described more than once as office clerks with attitude.
They do, however, live a rich fantasy life, which surfaces in their purple prose. Incidentally, copywriters have nothing to do with copyright – on the contrary; most of them are shameless plagiarists!
Otherwise known as ‘suits’. Opinion is divided as to whether they are there to protect the client from the creatives (who would happily spend a fortune on development without worrying a jot about sales), or the creatives from the client (who expects to make a fortune without spending a penny on production).
As the name would suggest these guys are normally smartly attired; only breaking formation when meeting with the agencies younger and more trendy clients, when they will try for the ‘smart but casual’ look - usually with disastrous consequences.
The term Public Relations Officer is a reminder that the ancestors of today’s PR people were Hooray Henrys (and Henrietta’s). However, in an age when so much has ‘come out of the closet’, cavalry twills and Hermes scarves have gone back in. Knowing the ‘right people’ is still import. It’s just that the right people these days tend to be gangstas turned rappers, Big Brother evictees or footballers that can walk and talk at the same time.
In the make-believe world of advertising and PR, studio managers are the dry-eyed realists: the fairground mechanics, the charge nurses in the asylum. And that’s just when dealing with the creatives.
To their own staff they are the whip-cracking overseers amongst the pyramid builders. Not surprisingly they tend to feel unloved and unappreciated. They take their revenge by being desperately uncool – a shocking thing in an advertising agency!
If you’re spending enough money you might get to meet the MD, but be prepared. Like all children, agency MDs wanted to be pop stars or racing drivers. The difference is, they never grew out of it. But being tone deaf or of a nervous disposition, they went into advertising - having heard the famous line about it being “The most fun you can have with your clothes on” and it’s too late to turn back now. With independent means, they might have been theatre ‘angels’ or owners of racing stables, but as it is they had to settle for the poor man’s ‘glamour by association’ and a well stocked drinks cabinet.
For all of the above agency people still work very hard (solving more problems in a day than most businesses do in a week) and normally appreciate the chance to talk a little about what they do and how they do it.
Just don’t make a surprise visit on the day that they’re finishing a new business pitch or, worse still, the day after they’ve just lost one!