Sad Men

Okay Mad Men freaks, before the new episodes hit, dig a little deeper into their history. NPR’s This American Life reran an interview over the weekend with one of The Men™ responsible for some of the greatest lines in advertising history, Julian Koenig (above, left). You can stream it here, starting around 8:45 in. The reporter (his daughter), explores the rift between him and partner George Lois. At first listen, it’s like two old guys fighting, which is always cute, except, their core argument still goes on in agencies across the country today:

Who came up with the idea?

You see it with the CD who *manages* to get his or her name on all the agency’s work—that they never touched. The junior designer who walked by a couch where the brainstorm session for a popular campaign happened, and so naturally that campaign ends up in their book with them as art director on it. You see it with, well, insert an agency role and chances are someone is taking credit for it. In that context, two cranky guys fighting have a point. Awards may be the currency creatives use to judge other creatives by, but ideas are still all that a creative has, as is the credit for same.

To be able to say “yeah, I did that,” matters.

Darryl talks about this in his recap with Bob Knorpp this week, in that one aspect of the tour is how it promotes other agencies. Given the paranoid nature over the credit for ideas, you’d be right to ask who the hell does that? But as Darryl notes, not everyone is protective the way they used to be. (When we started off, that was always one part of it: 1) Visit current clients, 2) Brands we wanted to work for, 3) Agencies we dug and 4) Cool places along the way.) He’s not saying we should be open about everything either. After all, a brand’s trade secrets are still sacrosanct.

But the walls large agencies put up because they fear collaboration as some evil monster are starting to come down. For some they’re not. There’s a big fear out there by many shops that if clients actually knew they couldn’t handle certain things, they’d lose the business. And while digital and social shops are increasingly being called in as *partners* of more traditional shops, you still have turf wars over who gets credit for coming up with the final idea.

Maybe the answer is to simply put the agency’s name on every line of credit in award shows or PR releases. Don’t worry credit whores—you can still tell people you came up with the idea when you show your book. Even if you did.

(Image: Ric Kallaher.)

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