"Endearingly belligerent" – another blogger
When I was a junior copywriter I remember marvelling at how an ad ever got made. First the idea has to make it out of your own brain, then it has to be accepted by your creative partner, then the CD, then the client.
The one that I found a bit of struggle was the creative partner. Many times we agreed on what was a good solution to the brief, but disagreement happened often enough that I’d find it pretty frustrating. One way or another the CD and client are your bosses; what they say goes and after a few attempts at persuasion you have to accept what they say, but what about the person who sits across the desk from you? They’re usually at exactly the same level you are and yet they can still have the power of veto over your work.
BUT THIS IS A GOOD IDEA! my brain would occasionally scream. WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO SAY WHETHER WE SHOULD PRESENT IT OR NOT???
If that happened you’d have to find another way. Sometimes we’d present both ideas to the CD and let him decide, other times I’m pretty sure I presented my idea round the side, either by showing the CD when my partner wasn’t around or slipping it into a review when the other work had been killed… ‘We did have this other idea about hot air balloons made of cheese…’ If either of those paths succeeded then my partner was often happy enough that we had an ad on the go to forgive my subterfuge; if they failed then it was never that big a deal. The partner would then feel somewhat vindicated and probably let it slide as a well-meaning throw of the dice.
But then it’s not the best way to work with someone you spent 8-10 hours a day with: ‘Hi, I didn’t really respect your creative opinion on that thing so I went behind your back in a way you could do nothing about. Now I get to say ‘I told you so’ and you kind of owe me. Or you now think I’m a bit of a sly prick.’
When I was at AMV Dave Dye told me what he and Sean Doyle would do under those circumstances. They would present neither of their preferred routes and instead come up with a third that they were both happy with. I was stunned to hear of this. That just doubled the workload AND it meant throwing out good ideas. Sacrilege! But it seemed to work for them, the super-talented, hard-working bastards.
On the occasions I was able to work on my own (freelancing, AD on holiday etc.) I felt a great sense of freedom that whatever decision I made would be the one that would be acted upon. Then again, I had no one to bat ideas off and I had nowhere to hide if the idea crashed and burned. Pros and cons…
How have you got past your disagreements? Have they been cataclysmic, or are you good-natured and polite about it? Do you feel like great solutions have remained unmade because you weren’t able to persuade your creative other half of their excellence?
I really don’t want to call this post ‘how to get ahead in advertising’, but that’s what it’s about.
I’ve just finished reading this excellent compendium of advice from current successful advertising people.
For the time-poor:
1. Trust your instincts in terms of which job to go for.
2. If you have the choice, work somewhere good for less money that somewhere shit for lots of cash. The money will follow the good work you’ll do at the good place.
3. Don’t let your title define you. Look for ways to contribute even if they’re above or below your pay grade.
4. Be open to experiences outside advertising in order to keep yourself fresh (and not fresh for your job necessarily; fresh for life as a functioning human being. None of them said that, but that’s my advice. The idea that everything you do has to have an ulterior motive of career success seems a bit empty and dark).
5. Be hungry, but feed that hunger. Don’t be timid.
6. Be ego-free: don’t judge ideas by how clever they make you look, but by how useful they could be for the audience, or how they will inspire your audience to feel.
7. ‘Stop jerking off spiders’ (I suggest you read the article to find out the meaning of that one).
8. Be really fucking nice to everyone.
9. And always be positive. I was in a meeting the other day where certain things started to look a bit difficult. I responded by saying: ‘the bigger the crisis the bigger the opportunity’, But the crucial thing is that I meant it, and it changed the mood. And it’s true. You can go through life solving tiny problems that don’t really matter, or you can take on something big that needs a shitload of work to make it happen. Which do you think will be most satisfying? Which will help you grow? Which will make sure you die happy?
I hope that helps.
(Via V and M.)
A new book on copywriting just landed on my doormat:
It begins by asking the very relevant question: ‘Does the world really need another book on copywriting?’
To which the answer is clearly ‘no’, unless you stretch the definition of ‘need’ to the point where it can span the gap between Sydney Harbour Bridge and Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport.
Then again, we do need better copy if the advertising industry (although the lessons within the book can also be applied to marketing, PR, design, branding, sales etc.) is to avoid sinking like a boulder to the bottom of an ocean of squitty poos.
So please buy it and get better at writing. There’s really no downside to doing that, other than the use of time that could be better spent kicking Nigel Farage in the testicles.
To demonstrate how committed I am to this cause, here’s a contribution I made to the book:
Thanks, Gyles and Roger.
1-2, 1-2-1-2-3, I’m the emcee called Ice-T. That’s DJ Evil E; Islam creates the beats. You girls look so sexy. I wish you all were up here with me. You drive me crazy with those big ole butts. Girl, let’s get the weekend
Jimmy Page explains Stairway to Heaven (thanks, A&G).
Worst movie death scene ever (thanks, S):
The scroguard! (Thanks, B.):
Fincher and Towne discuss one of the best movies of all time:
The best slo-mo shots of all time:
My opinion of Shia Labeouf was not high… until I watched this (thanks, J):
Dick-shaped weather (thanks, J):
A message reaches me from my friend John Allison, erstwhile ECD of the famed 4Creative advertising agency:
We’ve been stitched up by Ben&Ken. Our placement team. We asked them for fundraising ideas. They came up with this: send me and Chris back on placement.
So we’re pimping/raffling ourselves out for hire/humiliation. It’s £150 a ticket. The price of a placement team. We want to sell 100 tickets and raise as much as we can for Cancer Research.
We’ll work, make tea, write small space ads, answer the phones, whatever you want.
If you’re a boss buy some tickets and exploit us. If you’re not send this to your boss and get them to buy as many tickets as they can afford.
More info here.
Cheap at twice, or even thrice the price. AND you get to help fuck cancer.
Is there a better deal available in all of cyberspace?
(I’d get them to orally pleasure a trout.)
Interesting how it chimes with the ‘unintended consequences’ angle of yesterday’s post.
Also, about six months ago I wrote a post that touched on some of those ‘pretending not to be an arsehole’ points. The Foster Wallace quote seems particularly apposite:
“An ad that pretends to be art is – at absolute best – like somebody who smiles warmly at you only because he wants something from you.
“This is dishonest,” he goes on, “but what’s sinister is the cumulative effect that such dishonesty has on us: since it offers a perfect facsimile or simulacrum of goodwill without goodwill’s real spirit, it messes with our heads and eventually starts upping our defences even in cases of genuine smiles and real art and true goodwill. It makes us feel confused and lonely and impotent and angry and scared. It causes despair.”
That is pretty depressing, but for me it’s the last paragraph that really twists the knife into our collective souls:
Perhaps capitalism that makes no attempt to conceal its intentions is the best we can hope for because at least in that climate the distinction between life and advertising can be felt. It’s not ideal, but when the alternative is a form of marketing masquerading as a piece of hand-painted earthenware on the bric-a-brac stall of a local fête, it’s got to be an improvement.
Well, I hate being lied to as I find it pushes my buttons in all the wrong places, so I’d prefer the lack of subterfuge, but if it’s the ‘best we can hope for’ I might just go and find a scalpel, a bottle of Hendricks and a warm bath (semi colon, hyphen, close parentheses).
Gerry Graf, brilliant US ECD and agency owner gave a speech in New York’s Advertising Week that (tongue somewhat in cheek) went a little something like this:
“The reason why people don’t take chances is because they’re afraid, right? And what are they afraid of? They’re afraid of losing their jobs. That’s why people are not brave in our industry. So, they’re afraid of not having money. I would remove fear from the equation, and I have some suggestions for both clients and agency people.
“Keep the overhead low. Don’t get married. Don’t have children. Have no dependents. Avoid second mortgages. Try to pay everything in cash.
“Follow the lead of Steve Jobs and stay unmarried for as long as possible, so you can spend all your time at work. Don’t buy a boat. Move to Queens. If you are married, do not get divorced. Love your spouse with all your heart and make sure they love you because one, love is good and everything, and two, nothing kills a creative career like divorce. Alimony can make you stay at horrible jobs. If you have your own company and you get divorced, you can lose half of that, right? So, love, love, love. And if you have kids, you can ignore them until they’re about 5; they won’t remember.”
Of course, every joke is a truth in disguise. I read that and wondered about the climate of fear that many of us live within. Chatting to my dad (a semi-retired financial journalist) I discovered that the very fear that keeps us more timid than we would like to be is actually the same fear that’s continuing to fuck up the economy. After the global meltdown of 2008 many people are still too scared to spend their money. Inflation is low, interest rates are low, but nobody wants to borrow money because they know what happened when they did that ten years ago.
So the money that needs to swirl around the economy in order to keep it growing is just sitting in bank accounts, keeping the spectre of fear just a little further at bay. The idea of people doing what Gerry is suggesting – holding onto as much of your cash for as long as possible – is very appealing, but it reduces the risk-taking that we’d all love to see. No one wants to make the grand gestures that could see them having to sell their car or move to a shitty neighbourhood. We’ve been burned, we hated it and we’ll go to great lengths to avoid it happening again. And that extends to many creative industries: who wants to take the risk? The 2008 fucking that the economy experienced will continue to reverberate down the years…
Unless someone shows us the way out. There are other ways, and the more people that find them the more the rest of us will consider those ways to be the norm.
Because things can’t carry on like this. Or, rather, if they do, life will lean further and further in the direction of being nothing more than a gigantic diarrhoea sandwich that we all have to chow down on every single day.
Surely a burst or two of bravery is less unpleasant than a couple of thousand more weeks of shitting bricks.