Talent vs. Ego

Working in a creative agency is like riding a ferris wheel. It has its highs and lows. I remember being told on my first day that I should soon learn not to sleep. All things considering, this was sage advice. Amidst crazy deadlines, understaffing, cut-throat competition and what-have-you, catching that shut-eye has now become a luxury more than a necessity.

The good part is that if you love what you do, you soon learn to roll with punches. And that’s what we learnt to do. I love my job. But doesn’t mean that everyday is magical. Some days I literally have to drag myself out of bed and out the door.

The best part of the job is the creative aspect of it. The brainstorming, ideating, developing concepts, then seeing them take form on paper or whatever the medium of choice is. There are few things as exhilarating. The worst part of the job is the politics that go along with it.

Enter the so-called ‘suits’ of the advertising world who believe they are God’s greatest gift to mankind. Put on earth for the sole purpose of critiquing what they can’t create. The point here is that some critique because they genuinely believe that something can be improved. On the other hand, the ‘bad suits’ will pompously critique for critiquing sake, while shoving their own superior knowledge in your face, which by the way has come from the all-knowing oracle ‘Google.’

Most will be able to put together thousands of powerpoint/keynote slides with insane statistics that will be copied and pasted from decks developed by previous unimaginative suits. This type will never back down even when you gently try to explain your point of view with substantiated facts. The righter you turn out to be, the wronger they will try to prove you. Until out of sheer frustration, you are forced into an uneasy truce to ‘keep the peace.’

Most of these would be in managerial roles with important sounding nomenclatures  like ‘Bespoke Managerial Consultant’ or ‘Director of Market Strategy & Development’ or ‘Creative Evangelist’. The problem begins when their egos get as inflated as their titles.

There is always a tug-of-war between the creative team and account management/ client servicing. And that’s a given in most agencies. But the gap gets wider when talent is pitted against ego. For instance, once a painstakingly developed idea gets the nod of approval from the client, there is no shortage of people waiting to take credit for that particular piece of work. The irony is that, most often, these egoistical credit seeking individuals would have had nothing to do with the the idea in the first place.

God forbid that the campaign should win an award. That’s when the real war begins. More often than not, the unshaven nerdy dude who slaves away for about a thousand hours a week in a hole of a cubicle, is forgotten while his boss, and the boss above him and his mother, are seen accepting the award on behalf of dozens of nameless faces who actually put in the blood, sweat and tears to create something they believed in.

The consequence is that talent begins trickling out. And while the agency in question may try retention tactics, it soon becomes a case of old wine in a new bottle. History repeats itself one more time. And then another. Until there’s no talent left at all.

All you have now are a bunch of suits who in turn recruit some more suits. While they may still rope in the ‘big’ clients (by virtue of being suits), there is no talent left to service them. It is only a matter of time then before clients start pulling out and working with smaller agencies who are hungrier, work harder and deliver better.

It’s a problem when talent is not recognised and creativity not given its due. It’s a bigger problem when talent clashes with ego. Because when ego wins, everyone loses!


25 thoughts on “Talent vs. Ego

  1. That was an excellent post, and right on the money. I’ve seen exactly what you described dozens of time. The sad thing is, what you said about all the talented people leaving. There’s a death spiral, that starts when the suits reach the tipping point where they outnumber the talented people. If this is your work environment – I wish you luck, because you are obviously talented.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks. I’m somewhat fortunate as I work in a branch office where we do not have too many suits. But in a larger context, we do have to deal with them occasionally, when briefs come in from other larger branches than us. Thanks for visiting and the kind comment.


  2. The corporate world of suits v’s talent, is an unfamiliar one for me, and as my own boss, totally, only have impress myself, although I set myself high standards. However I enjoyed your article, and understand the shrinking talent situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. ego is such a waste of energy and taking credit for others creativity is so wrong but happens constantly .. fortunately I believe in karma, it will catch up with them cos what goes down comes round 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s nice to connect with someone from the industry. Thanks for stopping by. Working on the client side must be pretty interesting. I’ve only ever worked with an agency. Thank you for the lovely comment.


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