Preaching to the not quite converted

The new Head of Emerging Media was in full flow....


Every few years in this business – which in my case is the business of helping companies stay competitive and profitable by  acquiring talent, and individuals stay motivated and well rewarded by moving forward in their careers –  it becomes clear that a new (technology driven) marketing discipline about to become a “game changer”. Ladies and gentleman I refer you to Direct Marketing, followed by Digital, followed by SEO, followed by Social Media , now followed by Mobile.

All these disciplines follow the same path from a recruitment point of view:  at first the more “traditional” and established advertising  and marketing agencies view the upstart new technology with scorn (in public at least).   Not workable, they say.  Too expensive.  Too flaky. Consumers don’t want it. Clients won’t pay for it.

Then some people in small independent consultancies  get tired of trying to going THROUGH the established agencies to get to the Brands and go ROUND them instead. And start making money. And suddenly the established agencies see some of their client budgets going elsewhere and lo! – they see the light.

Then comes the “we’ve hired a Head of [Direct Marketing/Digital/Social Media/Mobile] delete as applicable” stage.   This is when an “evangelist” from the new discipline is brought in to educate the agency and its clients and to develop [DM/D/SM/M delete as applicable] as part of the agencys’ “continued commitment to offering its clients a 360 degree marketing and advertising solution”.

And this is the bit where it so often goes wrong for a couple of years……….

Our happy “evangelist” so often doesn’t get invited to the client meetings, doesn’t get their  part of the response to brief included in the pitch meeting, doesn’t get  a budget to hire anyone  when they do start winning business and  generally finds that despite the fact that the senior folk who hired him/her were quite clear that the agency was positively aching for them to come on board and show them all the error of their old fashioned ways and lead them towards a bright new tomorrow, actually hardly anyone at a less senior level wants them there at all.  And yes that was an over long sentence.

Why is this?

Well perhaps some examination of what the word “evangelist” actually means will offer up a clue. According to the Collins English Dictionary an evangelist is someone who possesses “ardent or missionary zeal for a cause”. In other words the type of person who will probably be great to listen to giving a speech, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to sit next to at a dinner party, even if you happen to agree with them in a milder, less obsessed kind of way.

And working alongside someone is not like being part of their audience, it is much more like being sat next to them at a dinner party. A dinner party that starts at early o’clock on a Monday morning and sometimes finishes at stupid o’clock at night (come on agencies – you know you don’t really work 9-5.30 pm whatever it says on the contract). For 5 days every week, not including company weekends away.

So being evangelical about Social Media, or Mobile or Branded Content or Virtual Reality games or whatever you have been hired to evangelise is all well and good – if you can make your new colleagues respect and trust you.  If in fact, you can make want to work with you. Which probably means you will need to demonstrate some kind of instinct for wanting to work with them.

While of course showing them the error of their old fashioned ways and leading them towards a bright new tomorrow….

And in defense of the “Head of ……..”  first person in to the agency hire, the wisest man in Advertising, Jeremy Bullmore, has this to say about what he calls “The Mad Inventor” character in successful and creative driven companies.  This appears in an article called “Time-and Motion Man and the Mad Inventor” in his collected essays “ Apples, Insights and Mad Inventors”

“The Mad Inventor invents indiscriminately and will promote his bad ideas as relentlessly as his good ones. He has only to hear of an accepted practice to know that is needs to be overthrown. He is vain, unreliable and whimsical in his judgments. He despises timesheets. But The Mad Inventor – at least some of the time – is challenging the conventional, teasing out hypotheses, forging new connections, make new analogies – and haphazardly scattering seeds; some of which in a few years’ time will become the harvest on which the whole of his organization lives”.

Which is another way of saying today’s pain in the backside is tomorrow’s Industry Guru, I guess. And very possibly Your Boss.


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