shutterstock_406692019-800jane-mcdaid-founder-of-thinkhouse-the-youth-marketing-agency-www-thinkhouse-ieSometimes in life you just have to say no. When it comes to a daft idea from a client or your agency is asked to do something you are not comfortable with, just say no, writes Jane McDaid.

 No is one of the most powerful words in the world. And in marketing land, it’s under used.  Can you make that logo bigger? Can you get that to me tomorrow? Can you share some game-changing, market-shaping ideas with us and then we might talk to you about working together? Can we just compromise on quality this time, to get it done? Can you just do what I say, because I’m your client? Can you just do what I say, because I’m your agency?


Saying no, to the right things – in the right way, creates the right conversations. It promotes a culture of positive, transparent, open ways of working and prevents a ‘you say, we do’ culture in agency land.  It establishes a culture of collaboration where we positively challenge each other (client and agency) to create a positive tension that is exciting and pushes both client and agency to be their very best selves.

As an agency, saying no invariably shapes what the agency can, and does, become.

Tempting as it is to respond to a dreamy brief, from a maverick chief marketing officer, to attract 45-55 year olds to their global, premium car brand – if you’re a youth marketing agency – you’ve just got to say no.  Stay true to who you are.

Tempting as it is to take a through the line brief and say ‘yes, we can do all of that’ – however if you’re agency is not built to respond in full – say no.

Hands up, this is what we can, and would like to, do for you.  For the rest, we’ll identify and recruit the right partners.  Honesty and transparency needs to be central to an agency’s values and something that clients need to actively and openly promote and encourage.

As an agency, saying no can be tough, but the right decisions always pays off in the long run.

But ‘no’ isn’t always a good thing.

For major brands with international structures and approval processes, it takes 99 people to say yes and just one person to say no to potentially kill off some of the biggest ideas in the world.  When I think of some of the boldest work we’ve ever done, it was never Yes, Yes, Yes all the way – there was almost always a ‘No’ in the way of getting the idea easily over the line.  With great trust, strong rationale and validation, conviction and a partnership approach – working together to turn a ‘no’ a ‘yes’ are very often the smartest marketing decisions that brands make with their agencies.

Very often, on client side there are people not inspired to make brave decisions, it’s not part of their culture. Worse still, by embarking on ‘never done before’ work, clients can genuinely fear for their own jobs. This is a culture does exist and, where it does exist, that culture needs to change.

The maverick marketers are the ones that seek out change and say ‘no’ to convention, ‘no’ to norm, and ‘no’ to the expected.  The game-changers are the ones who empower their teams to challenge their agencies, invite bold, brave attitudes and encourage a partnership approach when it comes to innovation, exploration and bravery.

These are the brands that are making a difference, connecting and inspiring and these are the brands that get us out of bed every morning, exhilarated to do bigger, better, braver work. They’re magnetic brands – they attract the best teams and agencies and they deliver the best. They are the change makers and the game-changers.  They’re the ones saying No.

Jane McDaid is Founder of Thinkhouse – the youth marketing agency.

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ Agency Issue 2016)© to order back issues please call 016611660

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