When Pleasing The Client Comes At Any Price
At the time when this happened, I was writing what was probably the first creative brief of my career.
That week my line manager was not at the office. This meant I had to go and share my opinions straight to the (global) account director on that client.
Eventually, one point in particular was stopping the whole brief to go anywhere interesting, in my opinion. And so I went to the acc. And I simply said: "I don't think it will work if we do it this way. We should speak with the client again, before briefing the teams".
It was in that moment that I was surprised by these words:
"You're not aware of this, but the last person that tried to do something like this lost their job, and we almost lost the account".
Essentially, this person was trying to intimidate me, playing the 'you're still a junior, mind your next words' card.
Later, it became clear that this was their daily task, for political reasons.
Making us feel profoundly guilty and wrong if we tried to question the status quo with more creative work, implying that it could have had serious consequences on the business - be it with an innocent yet ambiguous comment, or a pretty direct threat.
On the altar of bending over in front of the client, people from all departments were forbidden to attend meetings, forced to 'ignore' sexist and racist remarks, declared 'difficult to work with', let go, or eventually pushed to resign by their own initiative as a consequence of this toxic environment.
Many ended up not knowing anymore what was good, as it never seemed we had a solution that wasn't wrong and also extremely dangerous for the agency.
Our diversity of thought was constantly bullied and frustrated.
Personally, it contributed to me ending in some of the darkest corners of my life.
It gave a boost to any sort of trust issues, pre-existing and non, which affected my relationships with people and especially those working in advertising. While I left the place years ago, I am still trying to fix this, to some extent. And when I left, it was like leaving a war zone.
I frankly find it ridiculous that I have to describe a part of my career almost as if it was PTSD.
Even more if we think we're talking about a career in advertising, where we are supposed to encourage freedom, especially of ideas.
I will always compare that period to having a giant scarecrow in the courtyard, not there to scare the birds, but manoeuvred by the birds themselves to terrify the people working around.
And I won't forget the times the scarecrow laid its eyes exactly on me.