We have met the “they”
and they are “we”.
With apologies to Pogo
By Tom Scholl, CMO, Live Picture
I think I first noticed this when I was a copy supervisor at Young & Rubicam. Someone from the creative department would come into my office, flop into a chair and with a sigh of exasperation say: “you know what they ought to do?”
I would sit patiently as this writer or art director outlined a solution to a real or imaginary problem facing our ad agency. After a brief discussion on the subject and our frustration over the realization that the “they” leading our international company with thousands of employees were not as perceptive as we were, my visitor and I would go back to work, forgetting the problem and the solution that “they” would not move on.
Then, one day as I contemplated these occurrences, it hit me. When speaking of Y&R, I referred to “my” or “our” agency. When speaking of work done by the creative team in the Detroit office, I called it “my” team and “our” work. By then, I was a Vice President (one of the hundreds around the world) at Young & Rubicam. I could pick up the phone and reach Ed Ney, Chairman of the Board or Alex Kroll, CEO. I knew they were the kind of guys who would answer my call and listen. But I did not. We were just too large, and they had large challenges to deal with. So, even though I understood the difference between “they” and “we”, I did not act on it.
Yes, size matters.
In 1981, I left Y&R to start my own agency. CTS Marketing. Within two years, we had grown to a staff of six. It would have been strange to say “they” when we were all sitting around the same conference table. Very often, when one of us saw a solution to a problem we faced, we acted on it. No hallway meetings, no conjuring on what “they” should do.
“We” just did it.
Here’s an example. We had a computer keyboard that was showing signs of age or overuse. Cash was tight, and I decided to hold off on a new one for a month or so. (Keyboards were expensive items in those days.) Tom Dusky, our Senior Art Director, came back from lunch one day with exactly the keyboard I was saving to buy. He was at a computer store and saw a stack of after Christmas “returns”. It was marked down 50% since the box had been opened. Tom whipped out his credit card and bought it. He knew that “we” needed it, that “we” would not find a better price. And that there were no “they” in our agency to do it for us. Today, I’m with a fast-growing startup: LivePicture. When “we” see a problem, “we” jump on it. No waiting for what “they” might do. I believe this agility has accelerated our growth. And I pray that we never grow to a point where we have “they” off in the cloud somewhere waiting for us to send them suggestions while we do nothing.
What is your organization like? Is it composed of “we” or “they”?
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