Monday, July 14, 2014

Beware Of Nice People


DDB has a philosophy of hiring people who are "talented and nice."

And I agree with it.

I've worked at agencies in the past where some people weren't nice, and it's a ball-ache.

The theory at these places goes something like: "All we care about is the work, and if a few people have to swim through mud and broken glass to make the work good, then that's cool."

It's not cool.

In fact, creating a stressful work environment may one day be a criminal offence, just as mining companies today face lawsuits if their staff get poisoned or blown up.

And actually, striving for great work at the expense of niceness often makes the work worse, since it makes people angry/bitter/afraid, and good work rarely co-exists with those emotions.

On the other hand, excessive niceness is a major problem.

Nice people who fail to kill ideas because they don't want to hurt the Creatives' feelings are a semi-regular hazard in our industry.

If you are someone who has the power to kill an idea - a list that includes (but is not limited to) CD's, Planning Directors, Agency CEO's, and Clients - please be aware that the No.1 thing Creatives most want to know after presenting work is, quite simply, whether their idea is alive or if it's dead.

And if it is dead, we would rather know straight away, since this gives us time to come up with another one. There's nothing worse than someone trying to be nice, telling you that they'll like it if you make 'just a few tweaks', when in reality they'll never like it, and you waste a week making meaningless changes.

So if I believe that niceness carries a risk of not being able to deliver a clear 'no', how come I still believe in "talented and nice?"

Simple. The really talented people do know how to say no - and they know how to do it in a nice way.

And the exceptionally talented ones, in an inspirational way.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post scamp. You've hit the nail on the head as per usual.

I personally find it quite disappointing that individuals in our industry still find room to be mean. We're here to solve problems and make things better for our clients and having a positive attitude towards it is usually key along with the drive and talent.

derek craig said...

Nice (sorry) one Simon. Spot on.

Not "Nice" said...

I worked for an agency a few years back that addressed a client's continued 'feedback' regarding a campaign over 6-9 months (never realising that the client didn't actually want to make the campaign).

Eventually, after countless re-writes and a head-hours bill well into 6 figures, the client finally mustered up the courage to say "No".

Oh, and because they never REALLY wanted the idea in the first place, they wouldn't pay the amount owed.

People lost their jobs and it became the catalyst for the agency's demise.

Just Say "No"!

Anonymous said...

There's manners, and then there's nice. And never the two shall meet.

Manners is saying 'of course, that's a lovely dress' when it's hideous. Nice is saying 'I know you like hydrangeas, but you may not want them printed all over your tea-cosy patterned dress.'

We've all been there. My question Scamp, is how do I get people above me to be semi decent?

It hasn't always been this way...

Scamp said...

It's difficult to change other people's behaviour. Possible, but difficult. It's much easier to change your own behaviour. Or your workplace...

Pseudo said...

I often wonder if Simons posts are a reflection of something happening where he works or just a casual observation. Knowing what a nice guy he is, I'm sure it's the latter :)

Scamp said...

Ha! You're quite right, my posts are inevitably influenced by stuff going on around me. And that was true here - though it wasn't a case of observing someone being 'too nice', and then passively-aggressively criticising them via a blog post. It was just that a couple of us happened to be discussing the 'talented and nice' philosophy the other day, in general.

Which reminds me, another Agency CEO was telling me recently about her hiring policy, which she described as 'naughty and nice', which I rather like.

Old CD Guy said...

Some of the most successful people I've worked with over the years have been wilful to the point of crushing those in their path, ignoring the nicities in their quest to see their ideas get up. Because there will always be resistance to fresh, new ideas, most people - including clients and, shockingly, many of one's colleagues within the agency - find it all too hard to do what's necessary to ensure those exciting but at times frightening ideas see the light of day. So these not-so-nice people ride roughshod over the recalcitrants to see their ideas realised. They are singleminded in their determination, a quality often spoken about but rarely demonstrated because it's easier to roll over in the interests of a harmonious working environment. Of course these outsiders inevitably become pariahs, spoken about in derisive tones behind their backs, but ironically they are also the ones who pick up the much sought-after awards the rest of the agency is proud to claim as their own.

nice said...


I've met a lot of supposedly nice people in advertising. Get to know them and they're far from being nice.

Anonymous said...

I've seen a lot of people ride roughshod over other peope to get their ideas made. And the ideas have been shit.

Anonymous said...

Yes, good article. Valid also. I am completely perplexed how so many nasty people still fly under the radar in this industry f*****' people over in the vilest ways. Would be great to read an article about them.

Anonymous said...

Talented and nice is the key.

I'd happily swap a few of the untalented nice people at my agency for nasty talented ones right now. Niceness alone is useless, talent isn't.