Loyalty: Huh?

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I feel a rant coming on.

It’s a recession; it’s a tough market; everyone’s pulled back; there isn’t enough to go around; blah blah blah. We hear it every day from colleagues who lost a long-standing client to someone who claims they can undercut prices, from people who were fired and replaced by someone cheaper and less experienced, from former clients and employers who offer the sop, “I’m sure we’ll be referring you business.”

Yep. It’s every business for itself. The playing field has leveled and small agencies are competing with larger agencies for the same handful of clients with marketing dollars. Advertising is competing with public relations for the same dollars, each making the argument it can do more for the client than the other. Carpe diem, everyone. Grab all you can.

But there is also something more insidious going on. Recently, a former colleague said to our client, upon being shown a piece we’d done that received very nice accolades, that, “If you think their work is good, I really need to introduce you to the agency we work with…” More recently, another former colleague from a different firm tried to grab an ongoing client by offering to work in trade on a job we’d already been awarded and started preliminary design work.

That’s not a sign of the recession; that’s the sign of the utter lack of respect or loyalty those same people once commanded from us. It’s not hard times; it’s a personality flaw. The rule now is there are no rules. What high road? It’s a lonely place. We can only note how easily these former colleagues were willing to throw us under a bus to get the business, and never turn our backs again. Otherwise, there’s a target right about there between the shoulder blades.

Luckily, both of those scenarios played out in our favor, in large part because our clients are savvy enough to see right through to the empty space where these people’s principles should have been. Even better, there are plenty of us who understand that there IS enough for everyone; it just doesn’t LOOK like it used to. We’ve recognized that collectivity, and sometimes working as a co-op, gives everyone the best of the best — in pricing, in quality, in finished product.

We’ve come to realize how highly we prize the loyalty of some, and have a long memory for those who would rather play out underhanded little intrigues. We’re loyal, even though it appears to be somewhat out of fashion. And we’re cool with that.

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