Is It Detrimental To Be Modest In Adland?

Man with a cardboard box on his head working on laptop

Adland used to be well-known for its inflated egos, and while this might have died down, do we still need egos in the industry to push work out there?

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

Having coffee with a friend in the industry the other day, it came up the friend’s directors were rather modest about their work. And while it’s great to be humble, he was concerned it could be counterproductive for the communications agency as it wasn’t getting their work out there.

Obviously you don’t want to be shoving your work down people’s throats in an arrogant and cocky manner, however Dandrew Cruda, an author for software company Apttus, wrote a LinkedIn post around a year ago why being too modest can actually be a hinderance, suggesting people could underestimate you, skills and accolades will go unnoticed and you might end up being a follower rather than a leader.

Posing the question whether being modest in adland is counterproductive, Dan Robathan, general manager at digital marketing agency Deepend, said it’s important to stand up for your work.

“It’s vital to have the confidence to stand behind and celebrate your work whilst maintaining the professional stance to listen and learn if someone tears it apart,” he told B&T.

“You can objectively celebrate company success without the negative bragging of an ‘ego’ whilst carefully treading the fine line between reasonable pride in achievement and inflated ego.”

Jonathan Pease, executive ideas director and managing partner at creative agency Tongue, believes if you’re not proud of your work and don’t fight for it “you’re not trying hard enough”.

“There is a big difference between being proud of your work and wanting to show people versus having an ego,” he said.

“Giving a shit about the work should also not be confused with having a big ego.”

However, being more modest about your work can come down to your creativity, suggested Mike Barry, creative director for The White Agency.

“The point about not promoting your work is an interesting one,” he mused. “I think it’s not so much about modesty as it is about the nature of being a creative person. I look at the work I’ve spent months on and find satisfaction in it because I know what the client needed to achieve, I know how hard my team worked, and I know all the obstacles we had to navigate just to get this thing made.

“But I also remember the purity of the original idea.”

And when it comes to securing new business, it pays to not be overly modest. “Good work you’re genuinely proud of in a portfolio is vital when securing new business, provided you are continually looking to the future in order to innovate,” said Deepend’s Robathan. “Never resting on your laurels is the true path to continued creative success. ”

While modesty is a subjective issue, it was widely agreed having a monstrous ego isn’t nice.

“My issue with egos in this business is very simple. Egos kill ideas and the ruin client/agency culture,” said Tongue’s Pease.

“Yes, clients can also have big egos and it also kills great work.

“I also believe it’s very hard to have ideas in the first place if you have a big ego. To have ideas you’ve got to be willing to take risks and put bad, potentially embarrassing ideas on the table. Lots of ideas that start out ‘bad’ become great with the right amount of attention, stretching and combining.”

What do you think? Is it counterproductive to be modest in adland? Tweet us @bandt