Stress in advertising is related to agencies’ growing business appetites
Experts say stress is a natural phenomenon that occurs when an organism attempts to adapt to a life's challenge and situation
Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
I’ve been hearing recently that people from advertising agencies, as well as those from the client side, complain about exhaustion, the abnormal situations in which they find themselves due to increasingly frequent pitches with shorter deadlines and incomprehensible briefs. The other day I received a message from one of the best creative: “I can’t take it anymore, I’m f***ed.”
An agency job is a milling machine. Regardless of the good organization of teams within the agencies, there is always His Majesty the Client, who with their sudden, and often unrealistic demands, destroys every plan. Job in advertising is a stressful one, regardless of the side you work on. And this is most true in agencies. There is less and less business, budgets are getting smaller, and in such a situation, agencies can rarely afford the luxury of skipping a pitch. That’s why we were interested in how creatives deal with stress. Hear what Aljoša Bagola, Bojan Hadžihalilović, Igor Mladinović, Nebojša Krivokuća and Vanja Blumenšajn have to say about that.
Aljoša Bagola, Partner & Executive Creative Director, Pristop
Stress is not always a bad thing. I love positive stress because it causes thrill in me. When ideas are swirling around your head and developing into a good project – that’s that positive uneasiness.
Unfortunately, our industry is increasingly dominated by negative stress, which, in addition to real time pressures, is associated with agencies’ growing business appetites. And, as we work at the heart of capitalism, this, unfortunately, is not so unnatural. As a young creative, I never had a hard time staying at work even after working hours, or to take my work home with a head fill of ideas. Back then I formed my romantic view of advertising for which I say I love it because I’m not in the idea of business, but in the business of ideas. As your career develops, the responsibility grows as well – not only in creative sense, but also managerial responsibility. You carry more and more projects on your shoulders. In addition, we Slovenes have been raised so that we don’t cultivate respect for ourselves, but we feel worthy only if we are the best. This, of course, is the best way to get exhausted. The problem is also in the different cultures of companies. Some of them – in the prevailing neoliberal doctrine – have given themselves the license to overwork their staff. The problem is also in the general culture – how much responsibility we pile up on ourselves as parents, partners, associates, because the commandment say that we have to shine everywhere. In fact, we are exhausting ourselves, and the epidemic of burnout at work is not only “branch-specific,” but is becoming one of the key inhibitions of our time.
Recent studies have shown that the world economy loses about 12 billion working days per year due to employee burnout, while health insurances annually spend € 700 billion for the recovery of workers. Obviously, people can no longer bear such a great burden. Therefore, I welcome the various initiatives that warn about the importance of balanced lifestyles, family roles and careers. Companies themselves will also have to do a lot in that sense, by recognizing the holes in their culture, business plans and personnel policies that lead people to such a position that they must timely recognize the signs of overload in themselves. In advertising, I am increasingly noticing the unhealthy symptoms of the business cultures, the environments and the relationships that deliberately or unintentionally put talented, responsible and diligent people into overdrive. Burnout is becoming a systemic problem in advertising as well.
Bojan Hadžihalilović, Partner & Creative Director, Fabrika Sarajevo
For me, pitches don’t represent any special stress. The stress that politicians give me is far worse than that of pitches.
For creative, a pitch in fact is the trigger for creativity and a challenge that makes you give the best of yourself. It’s in our blood, it’s what drives us. It’s imperative that your idea wins. But, pitches are like a 100-meter dash. Winner takes all, the others lose all! There are no shades of gray.
Clear rules. Sometimes merciless. So sometimes it seems like somebody invited 10 people to dinner, and in the end, only one person, whom they liked, actually got treated with a dinner.
In the old days, real clients had respect for the time and creativity of agencies, and they also participated in their own way, as true partners. That fair-play got lost somewhere.
Anyway, you don’t need to stress-out, because there is no other recipe, except that you always respect the client who invited you to the fight for the best idea for his brand. And when the deadlines come, before you submit your nicely packaged pitch, you can sprinkle some water for luck … because, nothing depends on you any longer. That’s pitch for you.
Igor Mladinović, Creative Director, Imago Ogilvy
Self-confidence and taking yourself too seriously are proportionally inverse terms. The more you know, the more experience and confidence you have, the more relaxed you take yourself and everything you do. Of course, you do the best you can and know, but there’s no drama to it.
Let’s admit to ourselves that we’re not discovering a cure for AIDS, nor do we deal with quantum physics. People would live perfectly normal without us. As far as I know, the world has never collapsed because a campaign was delayed for a week or because an actor in the ad wore a shirt instead of a t-shirt. It usually turns out that some complex-troubled brand manager felt an apparent moment of self-importance, and wrote some nasty e-mails to his agency, and that’s all.
So my recipe for fighting stress is that I do the job honestly and the best I know at all times, with the people I believe in. And to have a good time while doing it, because we know that after all, it’s all one micro spot on the map of the universe.
Nebojša Krivokuća, Creative Director, Communis DDB Belgrade
Experts say: “Stress is a natural phenomenon that occurs when an organism attempts to adapt to a life’s challenge and situation”.
Deadlines are always short, briefs are often poorly worded, and failures are part of the job. It’s the daily routine of the profession we are dedicated to – every day’s a pitch. They are not the cause of stress.
Life’s a pitch, then you die …
Accepting this unpleasant truth is the first part of the recipe against the bad influence of stress on us. Another important thing is to recall from time to time that we don’t work in flight control or in a nuclear power plant.
If we make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world.
If we learn something from a mistake, the next time we’ll be better.
A new pitch will come in a day or two.
And stress, because it’s ‘natural phenomenon’ and the result of the need to adapt to the ‘living challenge and situation’ – also has its good sides. When the mixture of adrenaline, endorphin and other chemicals makes you sometimes jump through three phases while working on a pitch, because you are sure that ‘this is The Idea!’; when two days before the presentation you come up with a better solution and you burn fifteen days of work; when it drives you all the time, and you can hardly wait to show it to an audience you don’ event know – that’s the pitchwise that only rare industries can bring you. When you do something the best you know – that’s the best therapy and defense against stress.
If that doesn’t work, consider changing the profession. Because the most stressful situation that can hit you in this business is when you first read the pitch, you don’t feel excited, you don’t feel the stress, you don’t feel afraid, you don’t feel the desire to win the pitch.
Of course, there is also the speech of Maximus from the beginning of the film Gladiator, about no reason to be afraid of anything, because you’re already dead.
From time to time I send this clip from the film to my younger colleagues, to give them some laughs before the battle.
Vanja Blumenšajn, Very Creative Director, Señor
The answer is simple: you don’t go to every pitch that is offered to you. The main mechanism for avoiding stress is good planning. Things of course don’t always go as you imagined, nor does the market function in laboratory conditions, but a good job schedule is most responsible for reducing hair loss and nail biting. Instead of accepting participation in each contest, we rather decided not to participate in pitches but to choose those which are particularly interesting to us because of the client or the possibility of longer collaboration. We believe in planned and long-term communication, and it doesn’t come with pitches for floor labels and leaflets. And yes, don’t forget that the job, as important as it is, is not everything in the world – a healthy distance (paradoxically?) makes you better at what you do.