When I first met my wife her dad came round to visit. Somewhere in the living room lay a copy of The Sun newspaper, which, for the unenlightened, is a tawdry tabloid rag that I read every single day from 1987 to around 2004. Now, my father-in-law used to be Head Of Music at the BBC and ran the English National Opera, so he was understandably somewhat aghast at the idea that his only daughter might soon marry a (hold your nose) Sun reader. So when he noticed it and mentioned it I told him that I kind of had to read it in order to have some idea of the mindset of the people to whom I hawked various products. He accepted this explanation, apparently considering my behaviour to be some kind of noble and necessary sacrifice.
But, dear reader, my explanation was a was a barefaced lie. I mean, maybe it had that effect, but in truth I just liked reading the sport section (always read it from back to front) and the showbiz stuff, neither of which, in those days, were much better provided elsewhere. So, Dennis, in the unlikely event that you’re reading this, I fibbed. Sorry. I just enjoyed reading it (until it began to bore me, then disgust me, sending me into the loving arms of the Guardian).
Sorry for the long intro, but that story reminds me of the skepticism I experience when I think of how well qualified us ad folk are to sell things to the rest of the people in the countries in which we live. Even if we grow up under quite average circumstances, anyone who works in the industry for more than five years will undoubtedly become much richer and far wankier than the most of the target markets we aim at. And if that’s the case, how do we really know what the fuck we’re doing?
Although I think a bunch of us enjoy Britain’s Got Talent or I’m A Celebrity.., does that really balance out a working day where you discuss the relative merits of Nadav Kander vs Mark Seliger? Do the visits to the cinema to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier provide some sort of cultural tipping of the scales against watching a movie like Amour? Can you claim a well-rounded cultural education to be a better fuel than a constant diet of the ITV dramas and Jordan novels that entertain many of the people we try to persuade to do things?
And does it matter? Anyone living as an artist is likely to have a somewhat different set of influences to someone who runs a launderette, or mends boilers (not that I’m denigrating either of those valuable jobs), and anyone who has been a successful advertising creative has had to battle through their newly-acquired riches and wankiness to communicate with the ‘masses’. And if a lifetime spent in a less creative occupation were the key to advertising success then we’d have tapped into that resource a long time ago.
But perhaps reading The Sun would help (in most agencies I’ve worked where it’s one of the daily papers it’s usually the most-read). Perhaps going round the National Gallery once a week would help. Perhaps a love of the work of Simon Cowell and Simone De Beauvoir needn’t be either mutually exclusive nor mutually detrimental. I suspect the best creative people like a bit of MacDonalds mixed in with their foie gras, and it’s that collision of disparate influences that helps you to strike gold.
Whatever the truth is, I’m off to watch a really shitty Cameron Diaz ‘comedy’ – for professional reasons, of course.