In an industry that takes permissiveness, ranting directors, public nudity and functioning (functional?) alcoholism in its stride, there’s very little that’s truly taboo. Yes, the levels of permissions and approvals eclipse anything Dante could have dreamed up in his nine circles of hell and 85 per cent of the work that makes it to the public’s eyeballs has been compressed into obligingly polite conformity… but outside of the actual work, bad behaviour and bad language are pretty much a given. What then could shock this most jaded and rose-hardened of professional cohorts?
“It’s just an advert”. There, I’ve said – well, typed – the unsayable. Add your choice of expletive for effect. It’s a phrase that’s rarely uttered aloud, but I’d warrant lingers in the mind of most. Staying away from your family for yet another ‘vital’ all-nighter? Hand-holding yet another client who has decided to interfere, err, give creative input and is, after three weeks, still unable to decide on the particular shade of green? Come on, admit it, you’ve thought it.
You may choose to worship at the temple of Hegarty, Droga or Greenberg; your proclivities may be more traditional, perhaps you offer yourself up to Bernbach or Ogilvy; but even the most devout harbours that inner, niggling, Doubting Thomas. “Maybe nursing is more thankless and poorly rewarded than farting around on Photoshop…?”
Up until recently these blasphemous thoughts were kept to oneself – or shared only with adland outsiders. Even opening up to your very, very closest collaborator involved an element of risk – would they surreptitiously smirk in agreement or gasp and boggle their eyes in shock, all the better to direct attention away from their own shaky faith.
Thanks, then, to Wieden+Kennedy and the ANDYs for breaking the seal with their fantastic call for entries. A firefighter, a bomb disposal expert and a neurosurgeon share their awe and admiration for the selfless souls who wring themselves out at the coalface of advertising. It’s refreshing, self-deprecating, and flipping well-written. (It also puts me in mind of the Mitchell & Webb ‘brain surgery’ sketch, which is a separate issue really.)
The thing is, I personally feel that there’s a balance to be struck between taking your job, your craft and your client’s money seriously and having a sense of perspective. I almost suspect that a realistic and authentic appraisal of where your life work sits in the grand scheme of things is, as well as being better for your mental and emotional wellbeing, conducive to greater creativity. Pressure, in the wrong context, can be a creativity killer. The growing body of research around flow also suggests that ability to remove yourself from a problem and get outside of your head can also work wonders.
I’ve little time for piss-takers who coast along on a sea of blag, but a little bit of doubt can be a good thing. It’s what drives so many creatives like Alex Bogusky or Dave Jones to channel their experience and skills into the greater good and why I suspect so many agencies plough time and money into CSR projects. It raises quality, it motivates people to make their work the best representations of themselves. And, let’s face it, advertising’s apostates are usually the most fun to hang out with…