In a recent Ad Week post, Edward Boches writes:
“No industry in the world enjoys self-flagellation quite as much as the advertising industry.”
It’s so true. Those of us in the creative department are especially fond of this self-flagellation. We complain about the sometimes-long nights (and weekends). We bitch about account teams who just don’t understand us. We lose sleep over client requests that seem as ridiculous as they are unrealistic. We ask existential questions about the meaning of it all (because we’re creative people with a few screws loose or completely gone).
Almost a million people clicked on The Business Insider post featuring Linds Redding’s thoughts on the advertising world before he died of cancer. Some of those thoughts:
It turns out I didn’t actually like my old life nearly as much as I thought I did. I know this now because I occasionally catch up with my old colleagues and work-mates. They fall over each other to enthusiastically show me the latest project they’re working on. Ask my opinion. Proudly show off their technical prowess (which is not inconsiderable.) I find myself glazing over but politely listen as they brag about who’s had the least sleep and the most takeaway food. “I haven’t seen my wife since January, I can’t feel my legs any more and I think I have scurvy but another three weeks and we’ll be done. It’s got to be done by then The client’s going on holiday. What do I think?”
What do I think?
I think you’re all f—— mad. Deranged. So disengaged from reality it’s not even funny. It’s a f—— TV commercial. Nobody gives a s—.
This has come as quite a shock I can tell you. I think, I’ve come to the conclusion that the whole thing was a bit of a con. A scam. An elaborate hoax.
Countless late nights and weekends, holidays, birthdays, school recitals and anniversary dinners were willingly sacrificed at the altar of some intangible but infinitely worthy higher cause. It would all be worth it in the long run…
This was the con. Convincing myself that there was nowhere I’d rather be was just a coping mechanism. I can see that now. It wasn’t really important. Or of any consequence at all really. How could it be. We were just shifting product. Our product, and the clients. Just meeting the quota. Feeding the beast as I called it on my more cynical days.
So was it worth it?
Well of course not. It turns out it was just advertising. There was no higher calling.
Powerful words. I read them to my husband as if they were part of a coveted Dead Sea scroll. He shrugged and said:
“Why was he looking for a higher calling at his job? That was his first mistake.”
At first, I was irritated with this simple summation. But, you know, he’s right.
Advertising is just a job. And I think if more of us accepted that, we’d be more tolerant of some of the annoying parts of that job.
Almost 90 percent of workers are either “not engaged” with or are “actively disengaged” from their jobs. Think about that: Nine out of 10 workers spend half their waking lives doing things they don’t really want to do in places they don’t particularly want to be.
Today, in factories, offices and other workplaces, the details may be different (from the Adam Smith inspired scientific management movement, which created systems of manufacture that minimized the need for skill and close attention) but the overall situation is the same: Work is structured on the assumption that we do it only because we have to. The call center employee is monitored to ensure that he ends each call quickly. The office worker’s keystrokes are overseen to guarantee productivity.
After reading those paragraphs, I agree with Edward Boches–we have it pretty good in advertising. Yes, sometimes, we put in 60-hour weeks and it sucks. But, we don’t have to show up at 7AM and punch a clock. Most people in my department roll in after 9:30AM. We wear jeans. We have break rooms with vending machines and ping pong tables. I mean, we’re not straining our backs in the fields. We’re not on-call at a hospital, saving lives at 3AM. It’s really not THAT bad. And, on the days we think it is, it’s probably because we’re forgetting that it’s just a job, better than most. It’s not a higher calling. It’s not “who we are.” It’s just advertising.