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The following is a piece I wrote for my friend Will Humphrey’s blog, Adgrads (If you click on the link you can see quite a large picture of me, you lucky fucking bastards):
Ten things about advertising that you might not know:
- Planners are currently in the ascendancy. For various reasons, the creative product isn’t nearly as important as the work that goes on behind the scenes. Sometimes this work is specifically aimed at improving the creative product but more often than not it is arse-covering, unnecessary bullshit. But these days people are very fond of arse-covering unnecessary bullshit because…
- People make most decisions out of fear. People want to remain in their jobs so that they can feed their kids and pay their mortgages and that means they do not necessarily want to do things that might lose them their jobs. Unfortunately this means that decisions tend towards the middle ground where perceived safety is at its strongest. Marketing managers approve ads that won’t get them fired; account handlers sell ads that are less likely to require expensive, time-consuming persuasion; planners will create strategies with the scared marketing managers that will sound like every other strategy going around town; creatives might write exciting ads but they won’t argue that hard for them. Result: vanilla flavoured blancmange with a glass of skimmed milk on the side.
- Martin Sorrell is as good at predicting the future as Stephen Hawing is at the flying trapeze. However, when he speaks, most of the business world listens and the newspapers report what he says as if it’s a pronouncement of the truth. It’s laughable. And pathetic.
- You might well meet your other half in the industry. Advertising is full of bright, ambitious, somewhat appealing people, and people who like the company of bright, ambitious, somewhat appealing people. If this looks likely, go with it. Forget all that stuff about not shitting on your own doorstep or whatever the proverb is. Get in there.
- There’s a famous film saying from William Goldman (if you don’t know who he is, be ashamed and look him up): nobody knows anything. The same applies to advertising. When you join the industry people will talk as if they are very certain that their opinion is 100% correct. When you leave the industry you will do so stunned at the number of times those people (almost certainly yourself included) were wrong. There is nothing you can do about this except weep.
- It’s going to take a metaphorical earthquake for the British public to like the people who work in advertising. The perception of slick chancers corralling people into buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have is one that is here to stay. If you want to be loved, become a nurse.
- Advertising has very little absolute effect. By this I mean that it has been proven that advertising will not make you buy something you would never otherwise buy. Instead it makes you switch brands. This means your job will effectively be as cheerleader for the brand you are advertising. You should either try not to care about this or make sure you want the companies whose products you advertise to succeed.
- People in advertising take cocaine. People in all sorts of businesses take cocaine but the fear of point 2 can be tempered (some believe) by sniffing white powder up their noses. Unfortunately it’s just papering over the cracks in their empty lives (just kidding!).
- You might well travel the world, meet famous people, see things for which you are somewhat responsible on billboards and TVs (and computers – whoopee fucking doo!). This will give you a fizzy little thrill in your tummy and make mummy and daddy very proud. Whether or not they work out what the fuck it is you actually do all day is another matter (they never will).
- Do things for love before you do them for money. This is a truth about life that’s easy to forget. If you forget it you will end up having a miserable ten hours a day that you hate, then you think that the fun you have with the money you earn will make up for it. You will be wrong.