Workin’ for a Living

“It’s called work for a reason.”

For full disclosure, I borrowed this line from the title of a book by Larry Winget. I recommend it to a lot of people and I make everyone who works for me read it. The basic premise is that you don’t get paid to love your job or be rewarded by your job — although both of those things are important. At the end of the day, you get paid to do your job.

And as I sat through another American Association of Advertising Agencies’ New Business Committee meeting recently, I was reminded of Winget’s book. Ninety minutes into the meeting (the entire allotted time for the meeting, I might add), we were still on agenda point 1 — whining.

RFPs have too many questions. We don’t get enough access to the CEO. Timetables are too short. Purchasing is a pain to deal with. Prospects want to own the ideas. The process changes midstream. Too many agencies get invited to pitch.

Legitimate problems? Yes. New problems? Hardly. Should something be done about them? Absolutely.

But we have to stop thinking that by sitting in a 4A’s conference room and repeating these moans for the nth time, they will somehow solve themselves, or that the 4A’s will magically come up with a solution for us.

Here’s an idea — let’s do our job and solve them ourselves.

— If you think an RFP has too many questions, don’t fill it out.
— If you think you can’t get access to the right people, or won’t have enough time or that the field is too crowded, don’t pitch the business.
— If you don’t want to give up the rights to your ideas, don’t.
— If you are unhappy with a midstream process change, drop out.

And isn’t this exactly the kind of analysis we get paid to provide? Isn’t it our job to weigh all of these factors and decide or at least recommend to our CEOs whether we proceed or not? Isn’t it our job to allocate the resources we have to where we can reap the best return? Aren’t we supposed to be the agency experts in these areas?

Why should we expect prospects, purchasing, consultants or the 4A’s to make these decisions for us, or even make them any easier? Prospects, purchasing and consultants are working in a way that presumably works for them. And I have an entire binder of guidance provided by the 4A’s — all good advice, but only if we take it.

If we all do our job, here is what I predict will happen. First, truly heinous behavior will stop because no one will participate in those reviews. Second, agencies that do participate in those reviews will go out of business because they are so costly, with such little return, that it is not a sustainable business model. And third, instead of spending our time whining we will spend it weighing the risk/reward of individual pitches and making intelligent decisions on when to pursue and when to take a pass. 

In the words of Winget: “Your success is your own damn fault.”

Rob Moorman is chief marketing officer at Merkley + Partners. He can be reached at