Mediocrity on Repeat: Why Change is Sometimes Good (and Necessary)


Both Roy and I have been blessed to have careers on all sides of the business.  We’ve worked for media channels, directly with talent, for corporate brands, for event properties, and for agencies.  That diversity of experience has afforded us a rich perspective on the challenges faced by each side of the business.  We bring this awareness and consideration into each interaction and have developed some great relationships because of it.  Between that and our empathic tendencies, people share with us – A LOT.  And whether it’s over drinks at a conference, or in a get-to-know-you meeting, there is one thing that I hear that honestly bothers the hell out of me.  

I have heard, more than a few times, a brand rep/leader say that they are not satisfied with their agency and its work.  Whether it’s the level of service or their mundane ideas, that client is less than pleased with the work of the firm they’ve hired. Hearing that always leaves a bad taste in my mouth because there is the chance now that the person has “agency PTSD” and will bring memories of that negative experience into future engagements. My reaction is tempered however because it also signals a new business opportunity. But every now and then, during those conversations, I hear something that takes me over the edge.  Despite their dissatisfaction, they share they will not reexamine their agency relationship or bring in another firm. When I explore why, the answer is flatly, “It’s just easier to keep working with them than finding and onboarding another agency.”  


This is usually the look on my face when I read that response.


“Soooo, help me understand…” is usually my first response, which is my way of saying “WTF(!).”  I am no stranger to the stress of procurement and onboarding.  I am sympathetic because I understand that too often those team members who work in multicultural and LGBTQ+ focused business units are expected to deliver stellar results with less than stellar budgets.  Many are stretched thin by the volume of work and lack of internal support/resources.  Not to mention they are working against a ticking clock, with their corporate leaders and board members breathing down their necks to deliver fast and often. The throughput of “breaking in” a new agency feels like a full stop and becomes so daunting a task that one may rather keep the train going.  


For all the cons, however, what are the pros of working with a team you don’t like? What is the benefit of seeing your engagement, and/or sales stagnate – or worse slip- because you’ve done the same activation, the same way, with the same look and feel for the past few years? If you roll your eyes every time that new invoice comes in, or you are scheduling your (third) Come-to-Jesus meeting, it’s time to do the difficult thing and reconsider that relationship.  Because no matter the ease it affords, there’s no upside to keeping mediocrity on repeat.