Yes. Self -respect, not self-esteem. They hold themselves in high enough esteem. Many of them could be rightly called out for their arrogance or over-confidence. It is not an issue of self-image as much as it is about an internal moral framework.

I am specifically talking about the way the client-agency relationship is deteriorating and how the advertising bros are reacting to it. What happens when we lose business now? What happens when we keep getting invited to pitches that do not end with change of AORs? What happens when a not-so-smart client gives you useless feedback or worse, hopes you to decode his/her grunts, nods and irrelevant comments? What happens when clients don’t give you enough time or money for the stars and worlds it wants to create for its brand? What happens when they squeeze you for margins, favors and extra un-billed work? What is happening with talent? Are they getting proper feedback, proper support to do their work?

I see the management, across most agencies & globally, conceding ground at each of these moments. The dialectic is totally absent. Apart from a few vanity browny points, we hardly see agency management taking stand when it really matters. I am not talking about pride. I don’t see pride as a virtue. We don’t need to be proud of our work. Pride is a negative emotion. What we need is a sense of self-respect independent of our work, independent of our financial leverage, independent of our contractual obligations and rights. Self-respect that is grounded in our humanity, in our ‘agency’ as human beings. That I feel is absent.

That self-respect powers you to ask the right questions, to stand for your right to your time, your money. That self-respect helps you see things clearly. Without that self-respect, convenience blinds you from reality. Without that self-respect, we accept client’s gibberish or half-baked thoughts as concrete orders. Self-respect gives you the power to very humbly ask the questions that must be answered. Without self-respect, the management ends up piling on more work than the team can handle and with far too many reworks and rounds of reviews. Even if they feel sorry for it, what good is that remorse? What force is marrying them to this situation? It is a simple issue of proper feedback and setting the right expectations. Self-respect propels you towards clarity, towards equal terms of engagement, towards a work-ethic that leads to joyful work not dreadful work.

i hope for agency leaders to grow respect for themselves in their own eyes.

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