The ad tech sector has failed so miserably that one of the world’s largest multinational advertising networks has resorted to optics and tokenism by declaring a four-day mental health vacation for all employees worldwide.

Because Saturdays and Sundays were considered as part of the four days, it delivered the message that the network obviously feels that working over the weekend is fine.

When tokenism becomes a worldwide PR campaign that includes an influencer piece, a two-and-a-half-minute video, regular tweets, and status updates, the communication industry has fallen into a trap that it has created. Tokenism is an acknowledgment that we as an industry have failed. More crucially, as leaders, we have failed.

The Client-Agency Relationship 

The advertising business arose in response to a movement in consumer behavior and the desire to capitalize on that shift in order to market a product or service. We, on the other hand, did not alter. We continue to promote the romance of long working hours and weekends, and we look down on people who leave work to pursue a life in their spare time. We are one of the few professions that have genuine deadlines, yet we are the only one that refuses to construct systems around workflow and deadline management.

As company managers, we have failed. Yes, there is a client, and the client has hired us to act on their behalf. This was motivated by the spirit of cooperation twenty years ago; agencies and clients had a symbiotic connection.

This is no longer a partnership of equals. Overall, as an industry, we have severely undervalued our skills and knowledge, giving clients an advantage. As a result, the industry no longer hires properly, placing the entire system under more strain than it can bear.

The Pitching Method

We did not capitalize on our reputation, skills, and success stories. Even after winning the world’s most prestigious prizes, we return to customers and compete in pitches with two dozen other firms. I’ve seen posts on social media calling for agencies to pitch, and one recent post had 65 answers, including agencies that roared at the Lions Festival. I’ve seldom heard creative executives complain about constant pitching and pressuring clients to pick without a speculative proposal. Pitching for new business became a major deal in the 1990s, and three decades later, it’s so dysfunctional that it drains the life out of agency workers.