Executive Creative Director
Is Your Agency "Quiet Quitting" Your Business?
No doubt, you’ve come across the term, “Quiet Quitting” by now. It’s everywhere you scroll. WSJ. NYT. LinkedIn. Even The Onion. Ubiquitous. Inescapable. Panoramic, almost.
I admit I’ve been mystified by the stickiness of the term. At first glance, it simply seemed like an alliterative way to express the old phrase “mailing it in”. And, superficially, it didn’t really feel like anything new. Remember “Slackers”? But it’s undeniably catchy and has captured countless clicks.
So yes, it’s a phenomenon. But is it a problem?
Quiet quitting may be an effective workplace management strategy for some. There’s nothing problematic about setting firm boundaries, having clarity about meeting expectations, and being at peace with what you’re willing to give to a job or career.
But when it comes to developing creative work – or depending on people to generate creative work for you – everything about quiet quitting is inherently antithetical to doing what’s required to get the job done.
You can’t just do what’s expected and then stop. Defying expectations is a hallmark of stellar creative.
Instead of setting boundaries, you have to break through them.
And the agency that quietly quits by delivering only what’s expected delivers quiet creative work.
The worst kind.
So, if you’re a marketing leader depending on an agency to deliver creative work that engages, inspires, and makes the kind of noise your business wants and needs, here are the:
3 Pretty Specific Ways You Can Tell If Your Agency is Quiet Quitting Your Business.
First, they don’t question the brief.
This is where an agency can quit before they even start. That’s because the best creative thinking starts upstream, and the best creative thinkers aggressively interrogate every aspect of the brief. They second guess every assumption, every decision, every intention, and every fundamental building block of the brief, almost like an investigative journalist. The most powerful tool here is asking “why?” – almost with the persistence of a four-year-old. Yes, this can be annoying. Yes, it can add to development time. But - and I know this from direct experience - the seminal seeds of big ideas get planted by tilling the living hell out of the strategic soil. It has always been a critical part of any successful process I’ve been a part of. I urge you to always, always make room in this phase for some back and forth with the agency. And recognize that those who accept a brief at face value never get past superficial solutions. Because if the agency isn’t wrestling around and stress-testing the brief, it means. . .
Then, they only answer the brief with tactical thinking, not creative thinking and ideas that bring tactics to life.
Of course, a responsible creative agency will deliver the required tactics in a brief, but the real responsibility is delivering an idea behind the tactics. It’s fair to ask the agency before they present creative work – “what’s the idea and how does this tactic bring it to life?”. Since it’s so well known, let’s use Geico as an example. Using an animated, talking gecko as a device has an idea behind it: to make a brand name memorable, pronounceable, and distinct in a crowded category. Anybody can deliver a tactic. But the exceptional talent doesn’t quit there, they deliver an idea behind the tactic. And it’s the purpose behind the tactic that counts.
And finally, they don’t bring anything beyond what’s asked for in the brief.
I don’t believe in creating a bunch of extra wallpaper work to show a client ostensibly how hard the agency is working. However, when you hit upon an inspiring idea, guess what? It inspires a lot of other ideas. Rich creative work is a force multiplier – it begets conversation, inspiration, and action. So, when your agency pushes past the expected and finds an exciting creative idea, it’s like a mother lode of idea generation. It should be hard to turn off, not the opposite. I saw this firsthand with the Bud Light “Real Men of Genius” campaign – a seemingly infinite supply of almost self-generating, fresh executional fodder that kept the brand relevant and top of mind for multiple years (to wit - this had such a strong shelflife, I was fourth-generation creative director).
Without a doubt, it’s important to establish a healthy relationship with workplace dynamics and career management.
However, there is a certain drive, energy, and tenacity that’s required to push past delivering expected work. It’s not even really about putting in overtime, or endless office hours. In fact, it has nothing to do with the traditional optics of office culture. It’s about possessing an intestinal fortitude that drives a person to not quit until they know they hit upon something fresh, new, and exciting. Leo Burnett, the man himself, used to call it “reaching for the stars”.
And that work is never quiet.
by Mitch Ratcliffe
by Cindy Cook