Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Poll: Do Difficult People Do The Best Work?

a prickly character

Today's poll is inspired by some stories in 'Get Smashed':

Bob Brooks "grabbed [an account man] by his tie and shoved him against the wall and smashed a big glass-framed painting, screaming at the top of his lungs."

Charles Saatchi "was a quiet and intense individual. What little he did say tended to be of a hostile nature."

Robert Brownjohn "liked a drink in the afternoon, often to deal with the hangover from the night before... he was rail thin, emaciated. He'd been a junkie and was friends with Miles Davis... he turned into an alcoholic."

Maybe the best creatives are uncompromising, and that means they'd never win any diplomat of the year awards.

Then again, David Abbott is a consummate gentleman, and John Webster was shy and unassuming.

So my question this week is - do difficult people do the best work? Or is that just a myth, put about by average creatives with an attitude problem?

Vote now, in the top right hand corner of your screen.

Previous poll results:

Friday Poll No.15 - Who Is Responsible For Ineffectiveness?
Friday Poll No.14 - Your Personal Success Record
Friday Poll No.13 - Which Department Is The Most Insane?
Friday Poll No.12 - What Music Do You Listen To While Working?
Friday Poll No.11 - What Time Do You Get In?
Friday Poll No.10 - Who Drinks The Most?
Friday Poll No.9 - Press v Online
Friday Poll No.8 - Success Or Glory?
Friday Poll No.7 - Is Reading Blogs A Waste Of Time?
Friday Poll No.6 - Job Satisfaction
Friday Poll No.5 - Festive Greetings
Friday Poll No.4 - Ad Of The Year 2006
Friday Poll No.3 - What's Your Favourite Medium To Work In?
Friday Poll No.2 - Agency Of The Year
Friday Poll No.1 - Which Department Is The Most Overpaid?


Anonymous said...

i think a lot of the best creatives are manic/depressive or chemically imbalanced. this can make them "difficult". being too reasonable generally results in watered-down creative.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine who went to work for an agency with a serious creative heritage was pulled aside by his CD after a couple of months and told it wouldn't hurt if he threw a bit of a tantrum at a suit.

So maybe it's not so much the difficult individual as the culture of the agency that allows difficult/uncompromising individuals that results in good work?

Anonymous said...

There's a time and a place for being difficult and the knack is in knowing where and when that is

Alan Wolk said...

I'm not a big fan of difficult people.

It's the old "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" approach.

I can say with great definitiveness that the biggest hacks I've had to deal with have all, to a one, been incredibly difficult, opinionated and widely disliked.

The whole culture of the "difficult creative" just doesn't wash today. When the whole West Coast creative revolution was happening here in the US (Chiat, Goodby, Wieden) one of their biggest raps against NY agencies was that they were all a bunch of spoiled hacks who raged and whined and yelled a lot over work that wasn't particularly good to begin with. BBDO in the pre-Lubars era was the epicenter of that sort of behavior and if you weren't one of the 10 superstars, it was a miserable place to work. (Or so I hear, never had the pleasure personally.)

In my own life, I avoid difficult creatives like the plague and would not want one on my team.

Lunar BBDO said...


Surely you catch the most flies with shit.

Fling shit at people. It works.

Anonymous said...

define "difficult".

i've been in situations where i would have been considered "difficult" by my colleagues for clinging to what i thought was right and not taking the path of least resistance. and then been proven right.

i've also been in situations where i was just behaving like an arse and overreacting to trivial things. sorry.

both resulted from being passionate about what i do.

if you're any good at this business you're very passionate about it. most people simply aren't that passionate about anything. and consequently don't have a clue about how to deal with passionate people.

passion, to the less passionate, is often equated as being difficult/slightly loony.

Anonymous said...

Is Juan Cabral difficult? Or Richard Flintham? Are Tony Davidson and Kim Papworth difficult? Or Robert Saville and Mark Waites? Is Dave Dye difficult? Or Paul Belford? How about Glazer, Budgen, Palmer and Kleinman? I bet they are when they feel that things are getting compromised, that the idea is going to be ruined, or when the Planner turns up at the edit;-)

Alan Wolk said...

Aren't "passionate" and "difficult" two very different things?

One can be passionate without being difficult. It's all in how you frame your argument.

To me, "difficult" is "you idiots just don't get it! No wonder, you're all too f-ing stupid to see why this sucks! I don't know why I even bother talking to a bunch of morons like you!"


"I really feel strongly that we're compromising our idea here and that upsets me. I want to explain to you why I feel that way and hope you'll do me the courtesy of listening..."

Okay, bad dialog and all that, but you get the picture.

New York Punk said...

Could it be that advertising makes life difficult for talented creatives?

Anonymous said...

Am I passionate/difficult?

Anonymous said...


unfortunately "difficult" and "passionate" are in the eyes of the beholder.

being passionate means being emotionally involved with what you're doing. which doesn't automatically lend itself to calm argument.

and why is being calm and rational necessarily a good thing? and why is being emotional and confrontational necessarily a bad thing?

a lot of people have a problem with others getting emotional about work. and it's just that: their problem.

i'm not advocating being an asshole. i'm just saying a lot of western culture (inc. the UK and East Coast America) have a problem with honest expression of feelings. and that's the real problem. not creative people who don't give a fuck because they can't and shouldn't.

Anonymous said...

The bad cop rutine is just a pathetic attempt to get a little respect.

Anyone doing it, is just on his/her way of becoming another walking cliché.

You might as well get a pair of white converse trainers, forget how to use powerpoint, the internet and computers all together and most importantly hate planners, suits and clients because they're puuuuure evil.

Anonymous said...

If difficult people'd do the best work, Mr Dave Trott would win black pencils every year.

Anonymous said...


dave trott is rich and has many pencils. we should all end up like him

Anonymous said...

Did you just type that without taking your lips from his arse? Amazing!

Alan Wolk said...

To further beat a dead horse:

Are the best directors in Hollywood all difficult to work with?

Or is it just the pretentious assholes?

I'm guessing you guys get "Entourage" in UK now-- Billy Walsh, the director played by Rhys Coiro, is a complete poseur and quite difficult-- something of a stereotype in Hollywood. And Adland.

Anonymous said...

Did you just type that without taking your lips from his arse? Amazing!


both are facts. he is rich (sales of GGT, BST etc) and he has won several D&AD pencils that i'm aware of. this is common knowledge i would have thought.

Anonymous said...


the billy walsh example is great. sure a lot of assholery comes from insecurity. but there's a lot of pressure associated with shooting a movie (and to a lesser degree, creating ads) which is why the best directors have very strong ( "difficult" if you're on the wrong end) personalities. they have to. milquetoasts don't make it. it has to be a dictatorship or it wouldn't work.

but maybe not as much of a dictatorship as this guy. david o. russell directing lily tomlin and dustin hoffman in
"I heart huckabees"...classic.

Alan Wolk said...

@anonymous the last:

There's definitely pressure and directors need to be firm, but Spielberg, Scorcese, even the Coen Brothers- those guys don't have reputations for being complete assholes on the set. Not milquetoasts, but certainly not assholes either.

At least not of the Billy Walsh variety.

As a side note, since I'm never sure how much gets lost in translation to your side of the world - the writers make it abundantly clear that Walsh is a rich kid posing as a down-and-out artiste.

Anonymous said...

No matter how talented a creative is, he's no where near the cohen brothers, spielberg, etc. so I think it's not a proper analogy.

Those guys are artists, we're certainly not. (sorry, cabral and micah)

Anonymous said...

hollywood being what it is, messrs. scorsese, spielberg et al just get their asses kissed 24/7 now.

but it wasn't always thus. and you know they had to fight for their visions earlier in their careers. do you think it was just handed to them?

Scorsese's fights with harvey weinstein over 'gangs of new york' were legendary.

vigorously defending what you believe is right and being a decent human being aren't mutually exclusive.

but sometimes you have to fight an asshole and then you have to be vicious back.