The Conversation

'No': The Little Word With The Big Impact

There's a large potential upside for those agencies prepared to turn down briefs they don't really want

By jeremy lee

That tiny word 'no' has such power that it's perhaps surprising that - in an industry where the noun 'bravery' is banded around so liberally and indiscriminately (and often inaccurately) - it's not been deployed more frequently.

This week's feature The Power Of "No" shows that perhaps things are slowly beginning to change: agencies, pushed to their limits by diminishing fees, scope creep and fewer resources following Covid-related cuts, are beginning to turn down briefs from clients that previously they'd been fighting over, like rats in a sack. 

It seems odd to describe this behaviour as 'courageous' (on Armistice Day of all days), but it certainly provides evidence of a confidence in the value of advertising's worth. By saying 'no' to bad behaviour or terms, agencies demonstrate to their staff and the market a confidence and respect that can ironically be very seductive. James Murphy, the founder and chief executive of New Commercial Arts describes saying 'no' as "bracing and affirming".

Furthermore, the pitch consultants have been supportive of agencies that have refused to pitch for good reason; Richard Robinson, the managing director of Xeim Engage, which includes the Econsultancy and Oystercatcher, describes it as "exciting, revolutionary, disruptive". So a bravery, of sorts.

It goes without saying that the more agencies stand up to poor or hurried briefs (and remember it was only last month that the disconnect between what marketers and agencies constitute a 'good brief' hit the headlines) the better the quality of advertising that will follow. And that will make it an infinitely more rewarding - both financially and emotionally - industry to work in, as well as one that is more confident about its real worth.


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