Rob Morrison: Getting fired feels strange. Being Strange helped me bounce back

I hinted at this story in my last oped and a few former colleagues fanned the flames on my social feeds. So, I figure it’s time to come clean. I’m hoping the statute of limitations has run out on misleading conduct. Here’s the story.

I was fired. Not the agency, just me.

When you’re starting out in adland you never think it’ll happen to you. It never even occurs to you. The sad truth is, if you haven’t been retrenched, then you’ve not been in the business long enough (or you’re not trying hard enough).

And it hurts. It hurts your ego, hurts your confidence and can really hurt your finances.

I’ve been retrenched from agencies. And fired from accounts. In those moments, the big question is always “What next?” Where do you turn? How do you bounce back? Experience has taught me the best approach is to put your creative problem-solving skills to work.

Let me explain.

Back in the ‘90s, I was promoted. I was the first ever creative director for this part of the agency. My three creative teams were beavering away doing Optus animal ideas (occasionally featuring actual beavers). Optus was 65% of the briefs.

Seemingly out of the blue a senior Optus client asked for me to be fired. There was no big bust up. No missed deadline. No tense, shouty meeting. Just “Him. Off. Now.”

Quick maths will tell you, when one account is 2/3 of the business, and there are only three creative teams, it means two teams work on nothing but Optus. You could almost hear the writers and art directors typing their resignation letters. Plus, what’s the point of having a creative director if they’re excluded from most of the workload. Time for a left-field answer.

Meet Greg Strange.

Greg was the pseudonym I worked under for two years. Optus never knew. As far as the client was concerned Greg was articulate but elusive. Greg never quite made it to meetings. And he was always busy when client-agency schmooze fests rolled around. But he cracked concepts, wrote copy, and signed off artwork just like any other creatives. In fact, I’m sure there’s a bunch of bromides in an archive box initialled with “GS”.

Why choose that particular name? It goes back to my high school days (insert joke about being in class with Jesus. I know. I’m old). Anyone busted for a detention had to give their name to the angry ruddy-face teacher. Eventually, we students realised no teacher knew all 850 students who were all dressed the same. So, this was a free pass. “Greg Strange, sir” was untraceable. He was all of us.

So, years later, Greg Strange was reincarnated in adland. And the end result was, the creative teams still got variety. I still worked on the key business of the agency. Greg did his job perfectly. Admittedly, it took a little slight-of-hand from the suits but, in short, we solved the problem.

Now, if you’ve got a strange problem, feel free to call Greg.

[Find Greg Strange at morrison.creative]

Here’s where the hint for this story lies:

Rob Morrison: Lancing the myth of freelancing

Find Greg Strange at morrison.creative.



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