I wasn’t expecting quite such a reaction to the ‘you need an out‘ post of the other day (by the way, if you found it interesting, do have a look at some of the later comments. There is some excellent insight in there, particularly from the Toadstool’s Alan Wolk).
So in the interests of balance I’m going to see if I can suggest why people might wish to work in advertising.
The comment of the self-confessed ‘middleweight’ creative made me realise how much of a difference there is between the young and the older in this industry.
Youth in general, as well as in advertising, is about invincibility and anticipation. You’re giving things a go and there’s no reason why you will not ultimately be the best at what you have chosen to do. Despite the odds, the possibility that you will be a multiple-pencil-winning Hegarty or Abbott is all too real. Yes, it is you who will buck those odds and fuck the poor saps who think otherwise. And in anticipation all is perfect. Nothing has had a chance to go wrong. The final great victory is always around the corner. Why should it not be? No reason!
Youth is also about novelty. I remember when I made my first ads and saw them on TV and on poster sites. Anyone who has had this happen (most of you) will know what a wonderful thrill such an experience can be. You ring your mum, you take a photo of the poster site, you tape the TV show etc. But like all thrills, the more times you experience it, the more it abates. I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that Chris Palmer does not do any of the above. He loves advertising and does it brilliantly, but on occasion he won’t even feel inclined to collect some of the awards he has won. He’s been there, done that and bought the rather expensive limited edition T-shirt off Ebay.
So all the pluses of the above two paragraphs are what makes you want to get into the business. Added to this is the fact that you go from being a toast-munching student to a person with a job. Advertising offers the free booze of the agency meeting and party, the free food of the post-house, the free travel and accommodation of the foreign shoot. Your lifestyle gets better than it has a right to be and the feeling is intoxicating. People older than you are offering praise, taxi drivers are interested in what you do, the bloke off The Fast Show will do your bidding in the voiceover studio. That little fuzzy bit inside you that goes all warm and glowy when something nice happens spends a lot of time in its warm and glowy state.
Then you have awards, which in this industry are plentiful, boozy and, for almost all of us, free. You get pats on the back and the kinds of trophies that you normally see in the hands of Martin Scorsese and The Kings Of Leon. It’s a piece of metal in a nice shape that you can also show your mum (mums have a lot to answer for) and some important, clever people voted for you to receive it. Another mighty thrill.
Then add in the little buzz you get when you’re on a call with a director and he explains how he’s going to get the lighting rigger from Alien to set up your Andrex shot and it’s going to look like the opening of Touch of Evil; the wonder of even the tiniest mention in Campaign; the brief visit from the MD who may not quite know which of you is Dave and which of you is Mike, but he wants to say well done for the new Kenco poster that made his client so happy; your own Mac; a free mobile phone; choosing music from your favourite obscure shoegazing band (even if it ends up getting rerecorded) for your ad; the crew, the lorries and the closed street for your shoot that only happened because you wrote something down on a piece of paper last month…
I could go on. Yes, these are the wonderful elations that await even the most average of creatives in this business (and quite a few people in the other departments). These are why the business feels so extraordinary in your twenties. There is much pleasure to be had. Don’t let that tedious old (I’m not old, by the way) blogger put you off.
But just be ready to discover that much of the above is so surface and temporary that it cannot hold its value for long. The reasons why it disappears like the sandcastles you were once so proud of are inevitable. They are life.
Of course there is pleasure and enjoyment to be taken from advertising as your years advance, but for the reasons I described, they become tempered with downsides and riven with the disappointments that are also impossible to avoid. You will search for greater meaning in your life and I really hope you find it outside an advertising agency.
Having said all that, I still enjoy a great deal of what I do. But I wouldn’t be human if I enjoyed it as much as I did at the end of the last century. I have a new set of values that come with living longer on planet earth. They don’t mean I try any less or do my job to a lower standard, but they simply mean that I, and virtually everyone else who has ever lived, need to find that level of stimulation elsewhere.
I’m delighted to say that I’ve found it, mostly (and you cannot fully understand this until it happens to you) in my kids.
Find your own, wherever it may lie.