Where Did It All Go Wrong?

I was having a chat to another copywriter yesterday and we were talking about how the job has changed from the one we thought we were getting into fifteen years ago.

To the ‘kids’ out there reading this, you might wonder at how fun it all was in the mid-nineties (I believe it was ten times more fun in the years before, but hear me out).

For a start, you NEVER worked Friday afternoon. That was for drinking. You went for a boozy lunch and, as my boss at the time said, ‘If you’re going to do that, don’t come back to the agency’. Then you ended up at the Crown and Two trying to remember which day it was.

This often alternated with the visit to the cinema, also a Friday thing. But that was much more responsible because you could still be back at the agency, sober, by half three.

Football in the corridors, ping-pong on the desks, getting the account guy to take you to lunch on expenses then ordering a bottle of port when he’s in the lav. Happy times.

But I don’t see so much of that now.

Although I didn’t get into the industry expecting the specifics above, I did believe that the job was supposed to be fun. Now, as Robert Plant says on live versions of Stairway To Heaven, ‘Does anyone remember laughter?’. It feels like the larking about and the bit of extra time and money devoted to blowing off steam have all but disappeared, to be replaced by ridiculous amounts of unpaid overtime and working yet another weekend.

I appreciate that we’re in dodgy financial times but I think this is more fundamental than that.

First, the clients got wise to all the fun we were having with their cash and, quite reasonably, didn’t really see why they should be paying for it. So now they expect a full day’s work for a full day’s pay, the nobby little cunts.

Second, the other departments were always jealous of the fact that creatives could fuck about and wear whatever we wanted. So now planners dress like us and account guys, who are now in charge of all the agencies and their money, want to bring us down a peg or two. So fun is out of the window, to be replaced by ‘multiple routes’, and any prestige we had (offices, big salaries, cars etc.) has all been taken away to be replaced by the egalitarian utopia of the open plan office and the non-existent raise.

Third, no one in charge seems to care about the quality of the work anymore. It’s all about quantity instead. Pile it high, sell it cheap because you know what? Any fucker can measure the hours on a time sheet and the number of executions in a campaign. If you showed a suit or a client ‘Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet’ today they’d think you dashed it off in the loo and would then like to see fifteen other routes on the same brief, just to prove you’d been working.

So the fun, although some of it was wasteful, did create a happier workplace and (whisper it) better work. Now both are gone, but that’s fine because the bottom line is OK and the other departments feel less inadequate.


There’s another aspect to this post that I might cover tomorrow, because that’s quite enough writing for one day.

(PS: I still enjoy my working day, but for some reason I’m not currently trapped in multiple route hell. Lucky me.)