Why Most Marketing and Agency Time Is Bullsh*t

And What You Can Do About It

Why Most Marketing and Agency Time Is Bullsh*t

Why Most Marketing and Agency Time Is Bullsh*t

1024 683 Michael Kraabel

In marketing and advertising agencies, the perception of productivity often clashes with the stark reality of time allocation. The industry thrives on the promise of innovation, creativity, and strategic brilliance. Yet, buried beneath the glamour and sheen lies a truth that many often shy away from: a significant portion of the time spent in marketing and agencies is, frankly, bullsh*t.

The Myth of Constant Creativity

The romanticized notion that creativity flows endlessly in these spaces is a facade. While flashes of brilliance do occur, the reality is a far cry from the constant stream of innovative ideas. The pressure to perpetually innovate often leads to an overestimation of time dedicated to genuine creative breakthroughs.

One of the less acknowledged yet prevalent aspects of the creative process within marketing and agencies is the recycling of ideas. In the pursuit of securing client approval or meeting deadlines, a substantial chunk of time is devoted to resurrecting and rehashing previously rejected concepts. This recycling often stems from a well-intentioned desire to salvage what might have been perceived as a ‘great idea’ for one client but didn’t find a home then.

This practice, however, creates a cycle. While seemingly efficient, recycling concepts breed an environment of stagnation. It’s akin to repainting a canvas in the hope of it becoming an entirely new masterpiece. It not only dilutes the originality and authenticity of the creative process but also hampers the exploration of fresh, groundbreaking ideas.

The urge to repurpose rejected ideas emerges from a perception of efficiency. It’s an attempt to save time and resources, assuming that these ideas, if reshaped or repackaged, might suddenly align with a new client’s vision or market trends. However, in this pursuit of expediency, the essence of true innovation is compromised. The originality, the spark of creativity that fuels exceptional campaigns, often becomes a casualty of this ‘rinse and repeat’ methodology.

Shifting the focus from recycling to genuine innovation demands a departure from the comfort of familiar ideas. It involves a willingness to embrace the uncertainty of uncharted territories, where genuine creativity thrives.

Encouraging a culture that nurtures fresh thinking, values originality, and applauds bold, out-of-the-box ideas becomes imperative. It’s about fostering an environment where rejected ideas are not recycled, but rather serve as stepping stones for the evolution of new, groundbreaking concepts.

Endless Meetings: A Vortex of Time Drain

Enter the meeting culture—the black hole where time disappears without a trace. Countless hours vanish into discussing the discussion, leaving minimal room for actual execution. The vicious cycle of meetings about meetings perpetuates a sense of productivity without substantial output.

Meetings, the backbone of collaborative work, serve as essential communication hubs and notorious time vacuums within agencies. An alarming reality unfolds in the industry: the majority of an agency’s time revolves around preparing for, hosting, or dissecting the contents of meetings, leaving precious little room for the essence of creative work—genuine ideation and strategic innovation.

Hours dissolve into the abyss of preparation, planning presentations, and collating data to ensure the meeting is informative and compelling. While crucial, this groundwork often consumes substantial resources, eclipsing the creative thinking process.

Enter the meeting—a scheduled congregation where stakeholders convene to discuss, deliberate, and often traverse tangential paths, losing sight of the primary agenda. While these meetings intend to foster collaboration, they frequently transform into time-guzzling endeavors, diluting the essence of productive brainstorming and creative contemplation. In short: Bullsh*t.

The meeting’s aftermath echoes through the corridors and workspaces, reverberating in discussions, follow-up emails, and further analyses of what was discussed or, at times, what was left undiscussed. This post-meeting evaluation further siphons the time earmarked for the creative process. The hours earmarked for genuine thinking and creativity shrink significantly in this relentless cycle. The intervals between meetings, discussions, and preparatory tasks become the fleeting moments when true innovative thought can manifest. This scarcity of time poses a formidable challenge, hindering the emergence of groundbreaking ideas and original campaigns.

The realization that this meeting culture jeopardizes the core of creativity beckons a call for change. Redefining the purpose and structure of meetings, streamlining their frequency, and fostering a culture that values focused, purpose-driven discussions over prolonged debates are critical steps in reclaiming the lost hours. Reallocating the minutes squandered in perpetual meetings to carve out dedicated slots for uninterrupted, contemplative creativity is essential. Creating pockets of ‘meeting-free’ zones encourages an undisturbed focus on generating novel ideas and strategies, nurturing an environment where creativity can thrive.

Data Overload and Paralysis

Data is the heart of strategic decision-making, yet drowning in an excess of it can paralyze progress. Countless hours are squandered sifting through mounds of information, often without a clear path to actionable insights.

When inundated with copious amounts of data, the human brain struggles to process and prioritize this deluge of information. The sheer volume overwhelms cognitive faculties, leading to a cognitive bottleneck. As a result, decision-making becomes stymied as individuals grapple with the task of sifting through and making sense of the vast pool of insights. Often, diverse sets of data may present contradictory narratives or insights, causing confusion. The presence of conflicting information creates a state of indecision as individuals grapple with choosing the ‘right’ path. This indecisiveness can impede progress, leading to a fear of making the ‘wrong’ choice.

A surplus of data also serves as a distraction. It diverts attention from the primary objectives and hampers the ability to focus on core strategies. It becomes challenging to maintain a clear vision and work towards specific goals when attention is scattered across a multitude of data points. In the quest for more insights, the relevance and contextual significance of the information can become obscured. Not all data holds equal importance, and drowning in an excess of insights can lead to overlooking the most pertinent and actionable information.

The pursuit of perfection or exhaustive analysis often leads to overthinking. Over-analysis can deter swift decision-making, stifling progress as individuals grapple with an insatiable hunger for more data, waiting for that elusive ‘perfect’ piece of information. The fear of making a wrong decision in the presence of abundant data can foster risk aversion. It hampers the willingness to take calculated risks or experiment with innovative strategies. The abundance of information can instigate a conservative approach, hindering progress.

The longer one grapples with an overflow of data, the greater the risk of missing opportune moments. Indecision and delayed action in the face of excessive insights lead to missed windows for impactful decision-making and execution.

The Illusion of ‘Busy’

There’s a pervasive belief that busyness equates to productivity. But busyness isn’t synonymous with meaningful work. It’s a smoke screen that often conceals the inefficiencies within the system. Busyness tends to focus on the quantity of tasks completed rather than the quality or impact of the work. Simply being occupied with numerous tasks doesn’t guarantee that these tasks are contributing to significant outcomes or moving towards established goals.

The frantic pace of ‘busyness’ often leads to shallow, fragmented work. Constantly juggling various tasks can undermine depth and focus, leading to a lack of meaningful engagement with each task. The depth of concentration and thought required for substantial progress is often sacrificed at the altar of constant activity. Distinguishing between urgent and essential tasks becomes challenging. The pressure to keep moving often obscures the crucial distinction between what’s merely immediate and what’s genuinely important for long-term success.

True creativity and innovation often require moments of quiet reflection and uninterrupted contemplation. The relentless cycle of busyness can stifle the environment necessary for creative thinking, hindering the emergence of genuinely novel ideas and strategies. Continuously operating at a high level of busyness can lead to burnout. The unending cycle of activity without adequate breaks or moments of reprieve can erode efficiency and ultimately lead to diminishing returns in terms of productivity.

An emphasis on busyness often divorces tasks from an overarching strategy. Engaging in activity for the sake of activity may lead to a lack of alignment with broader objectives, rendering the work less impactful or meaningful in the grand scheme of things. The myth perpetuates the belief that value is directly proportional to the quantity of work undertaken. However, it’s not the sheer volume of tasks that creates value but the quality, thoughtfulness, and strategic alignment of those tasks with the bigger picture.

The Search for Authenticity

In the midst of this chaos of deadlines, budgets, and team dynamics, the quest for genuine creativity and impactful marketing strategies often gets lost. The focus shifts from authentic, audience-centric approaches to conforming to industry norms and fleeting trends. The fear of failure acts as a significant deterrent to authentic creativity. The pressure to deliver consistent results and the aversion to risks often steer individuals or teams away from pursuing genuinely novel and innovative ideas.

Industries often set standards or benchmarks, leading to a culture of conformity. Straying from these industry norms might be perceived as risky or even ‘rebellious,’ hindering the emergence of truly original ideas. In a fast-paced world, time constraints and deadlines can impede the exploration of genuinely unique ideas. The pressure to deliver within set timelines can often hinder the thorough exploration and development of innovative concepts.

Creativity is sometimes misconstrued as a mere aesthetic or artistic pursuit. However, genuine creativity goes beyond the surface level of aesthetics. It requires a deep understanding of problems and a willingness to explore unconventional solutions. A work environment that fails to foster a culture conducive to risk-taking, experimentation, and acceptance of failure can stifle the emergence of authentic creativity. Individuals may stick to safer, more conventional paths without the freedom to explore and experiment. Balancing emotional resonance with rational analysis is crucial for authentic creativity. Striking this balance is challenging, as it requires the fusion of feelings and logic, which can be a delicate dance to orchestrate.

Striving for Meaningful Change

Recognizing these pitfalls is the first step towards rectifying the systemic issues. Embracing a shift in culture—prioritizing meaningful work over the illusion of productivity—is imperative. Encourage a mindset that celebrates and rewards innovation. Ensure that employees feel empowered to propose, experiment, and implement new ideas without fear of failure. Foster an environment where ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking is not just tolerated but actively encouraged.

Diverse perspectives fuel creativity. Encourage collaboration across various departments and backgrounds. Bring together individuals with different skill sets and viewpoints to generate fresh ideas and solutions. Ensure that your team has access to the necessary resources—both tangible and intangible—to foster their creativity. This could include tools, training, mentorship, and time allocated specifically for innovation and exploration.

Promote a culture where taking risks is not only accepted but also encouraged. Emphasize that failure is part of the learning process and an essential stepping stone toward innovation. Leadership plays a crucial role in driving change. Leaders should exemplify the change they wish to see, actively supporting and engaging in the innovative process. Their endorsement of new ideas and willingness to take calculated risks sets the tone for the entire organization.

Create a safe space for open dialogue and idea-sharing. Encourage an inclusive environment where all team members feel valued and free to contribute without fear of judgment.  This is often the most difficult part of change. Client budgets, timelines, and launch deadlines often mean there isn’t room for failure.  Build a culture and a relationship with the work that allows this to be part of the process.  Remember: Nothing is so urgent that you can’t stop fixing things along the way rather than pushing forward bad or uncreative ideas.

Streamlining Processes and Embracing Efficiency

Implementing streamlined processes, efficient communication channels, and focused, purpose-driven meetings can help reclaim lost time and redirect energy toward meaningful outputs. Establish mechanisms for gathering and acting upon feedback. This can involve regular check-ins, surveys, or platforms where team members can share their thoughts and suggestions for improvement.  Just ensure this doesn’t become another process element to check off the list.

Ensure that time is allocated specifically for creative pursuits. Set aside periods where team members can focus solely on generating new ideas or working on projects that align with the organization’s long-term vision.

Striking the Balance: Authenticity and Strategy

Striking the elusive balance between authenticity and strategic planning requires a conscious effort. It involves understanding that genuine creativity often arises from a confluence of rational strategy and emotional resonance.

The acknowledgment of the prevalent bullsh*t in marketing and agency time is the catalyst for change. By addressing inefficiencies, fostering an environment conducive to genuine creativity, and recalibrating the balance between rational strategy and emotional engagement, the industry can escape the downward spiral of wasted time and pave the way for authentic, impactful marketing efforts.

The true essence of the industry lies not in the smoke and mirrors but in the genuine connections and impactful campaigns that resonate with audiences—a shift from ‘busyness’ to meaningful action.

Both the Client and the Agency are to Blame

The dance between agencies and clients often intertwines in a web of mutual influence and responsibility. While clients’ insatiable hunger for fresh, groundbreaking concepts fuels the perpetual demand for volumes of ideas, this desire inadvertently places agencies under the strain of quantity over quality. The perpetual need for ‘new’ often overshadows the pursuit of the ‘right’ idea, leading agencies to generate a constant stream of concepts in the hopes of meeting these client demands.

Additionally, clients shopping around agencies for ideas, effectively expecting a portion of work to be generated without compensation, perpetuates the notion that a percentage of an agency’s time should be given away for free. This creates a cycle where both sides contribute to an environment where the focus on the quality of the idea and the value of an agency’s time gets overshadowed by the sheer volume of output.



All stories by: kraabel