April 13, 2010

"All My Enemies Are Friends...": The Colour & The Shape of MadAve Relationships


Straight out of the new age rock FooFighters' "The Colour & The Shape" song, the line above calls to mind the presence, importance and ramifications of relationships on Madison Avenue. Relationships between clients, associates, competitors and adversaries.

One of the editors here was commenting recently about how--after an extensive period of time in advertising--they found themselves in a semi-public 21st century version of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. It's within a small cabal and there's little doubt that the vitriol on both sides has been mutually painful. We compared this situation with the famous discord between both West Virginian families and found that it began with a star-crossed love affair.


What have we done with innocence
It disappeared with time, it never made much sense
Adolescent resident
Wasting another night on planning my revenge

What agency person, media rep or brand manager has not experienced a change in the weather between two people, two companies or two business categories? Suddenly, what went from business as usual degenerated into budget cuts, work disapproval and ultimately, separation. From there, it doesn't end. People either tangentially related to any of the above--or have no connection whatsoeve--become suspect as sympathetic to the "other side", or worse, a spy. Is there validity to either of these? Judge for yourself. It depends on one's own degree of paranoia.


The business of media is a business of relationships. Therefore it's unrealistic and inescapable to assume that differences of opinion arise, which not coincidentally trigger emotional responses. It could be entirely business driven, where one or both parties felt the other under delivered on business deals of all kinds. Promises unkept. Expectations not met. Or it could be personal. This could be driven by: ___________ (fill in the blank). There are 6 billion personalities inhabiting the planet. Every once in a while we send one into space, though that doesn't provide much more "wiggle room" for us still here on Earth to find people who don't agree with us, sometimes zealously.


As a result--just keeping the topic within the confines of Madison Avenue--with so many suppliers in virtually every category, agencies, publishers and marketers, each has a wealth of choices to choose from. Virtually every company has some sort of problem-solving capability, so the primary reason selection criteria is (1) talent, (2) price and (3) chemistry.

All this time to make amends
What do you do when all your enemies are friends
Now and then I'll try to bend
Under pressure wind up snapping in the end

Each business decision is based on a combination of all three, yet some would claim that personal and cultural chemistry are the number one drivers in sustaining business relationships of all kinds. This is not the place to go into specifics. All we'll say is, sometimes one just has to learn by their own mistakes.

Therefore, all perception/reality advice detailed below is offered with great certainty, having followed NONE of it!


1. Get Past It/Get Out of the House

- Perception: Pray, meditate, party like there's no tomorrow, go on vacation, get psychotherapy, let by-gones be by-gones...whatever you call it... try to move on from it. Leave it alone. Turn your attention to the future.

- Reality: Depending on the intensity of the relationship or "disagreement", this is easier said than done.


2. Keep Your Mouth Shut. At least two reasons:

- Perception: One "victim" assumes friends, neighbors and out-of-towners don't already know about it .
- Reality: Most likely, unlikely. While friends may lend a sympathetic ear for a while, they have their own woes to complain about.

- Perception: Flames will not get back to the other "victim", whether by gossip or written evidence, articles/quotes, parties, clubs, events, invitations... you name it.
- Reality: Some will, some won't, though this may be driven by others snooping for gossip and the voyeuristic enjoyment of fanning the flames. Another factor is whether the goal of leaking the flame is/was intentional or not.


3. Have Hope, regularly.

- Perception: Look to others' transformation for inspiration. In "Gone With The Wind", Scarlett O'Hara's last line is, "After all, tomorrow is another day". That's true. :--) Yes, tomorrow IS another day :--(

- Reality: That said, lest we forget Rhett Butler's final word, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn". Er, maybe that's not the right advice here. But frankly, the longer one doesn't or can't clear a clouded head; one's head could very much find it cut off. (Caution, metaphors ahead:): "Steering with the rear view mirror" tends to lead to other accidents, mistakes and disagreements. In other words, holding on to the grudge however intentionally or not tends to have "a snowball effect".


So, what's to do? The very best you can. There's a reason they call it "work". We perform everyday on the "Maddest" of Avenues. Ultimately, the Hatfield-McCoy feud is now infamous, sponsored by Kawasaki (no joke). It's turned into a tourist hotspot. Anything can happen. That's life.

Don't want to be your monkey wrench
One more indecent accident
I'd rather leave than suffer this
I'll never be your monkey wrench

For those not familiar with the FooFighters, Dave Grohl, its leader was once part of the band, "Nirvana", led by Kurt Cobain. And look what happened to him :--)

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