Greg Hahn: it’s time to make agencies special again

Top award-winning creative shares his candid feelings about what it means to be living in a period of radical opportunity.

“It’s a blessing in disguise.”

That’s common advice you hear when you’ve been laid off, at least in advertising.

My particular blessing came dressed very convincingly as a horrible circumstance on the last day of Q1, when I was laid off due to the coronavirus and its effect on the balance sheet.

That was hard advice to believe at the time, but coming out of it, I can vouch for the validity of that counsel. With change comes opportunity. We are all now in a period of radical opportunity.

To be alive in 2020 is to be living, breathing and occasionally sleeping in the midst of radical change. We’re experiencing a major shift in culture, society and the economy. And sitting in the center of this Venn diagram of ‘What the Fu*ck is Happening‘ is advertising.

With all this, comes the opportunity for our industry to un-status the quo. To evaluate what wasn’t working and to build a new model based on the new world.

One built on talent, transparency, and flexibility based on the client‘s needs with few layers and overheads. Stripping out the things that get in the way of the work. We need to put the focus on the product, not the process. To remember creativity is not a commodity. We lost the plot over the years chasing efficiency over effectiveness. This is a chance for a page one rewrite.

There is too much fear in the advertising world. Fear of losing a client, fear of losing some fees to a partner agency, fear of a bad meeting. It’s time to see what’s possible if we weren’t afraid. To build a model that encourages freedom not fear. Now is the time to see what we can all do when we focus on what can be gained not what can be lost.

This is a time to evaluate all aspects of the industry.

To take meaningful measures that give new voices a chance to be heard so that the walls inside an agency represent the world outside of it. The new model needs diversity baked into it at all levels.

To put the humanity back in the business. To create a space where people can be open and honest with each other. Where employees, leaders, clients can all have the hard conversations that result in stronger work and strengthened relationships.

It’s a chance to put the focus back on ideas and the work. To remember what makes agencies special.

These are no doubt, trying times. The voice over in every commercial has been telling us that for the last three months. It wasn’t pleasant going through what I did. But, I’m in a better place for it. I think a year from now we may be saying the same thing about advertising.

Greg Hahn is co-founder and chief creative officer of Mischief@No Fixed Address

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