Thursday, April 5, 2012

I'm Outtahere

There was a great piece published by the SF Egoist recently. It's written by an art director, usually not a good sign, but in this case it's the exception.

The author, Mr. Linds, offers his unique perspective on life in advertising and the unusual demands it made on his now cancer-shortened life.

Thankfully, I'm in excellent health and therefore cannot muster the depth and insight of Mr. Lind. However I did spend many of my years working at Chiat/Day when it earned its moniker Chiat/Day/Night and have my own opinions on the matter of burning the midnight oil.

I simply didn't do it.

I worked late on occasion, sometimes until 7 or 7:30. And I came in on the weekends for new business pitches, particularly when Lee and Bob were there. But by and large I went home at a decent hour and spent time with my family -- though I'm sure there were times my wife and my daughters wished I had stayed the office.

Did this impede my career progress?


But truth be told I had no interest in palling around with upper management at 10 PM just for the sake of appearing like a good company man. And to be completely honest, I never developed the acquired taste for Kool Aid.

I prefer to believe that my slow advancement was due more to my opinionated opinions and the unfiltered expression of those opinions. In fact, I'm sure there were times many of my colleagues wished I had gone home earlier.

But wait, there's more. You see, I also happen to be a big believer in The Law of Diminishing Returns.

Working late never increased the probability of coming up with the big idea. It reduced it.

Besides, unlike other creatives, I don't mosey in to work at 11 o'clock in the morning. I get in at a decent hour and I make with the funny right away. I don't spend a lot of time cavorting or chatting up it with other employees like it's high school. I put my considerable nose to the grindstone and keep it there until 5. Or 5:30, depending on my caffeine intake.

In the end, like Mr. Linds says, it's all just advertising. TV commercials, print ads, websites, and mobile apps, that are utterly disposable. I've never conflated advertising to be anything more than that. It's simply a way to put food on my family's table. Never to be confused with anything lasting or meaningful.

That, I'll save for my novel.

Which I plan to get back to as soon as I'm done writing some banner ads for a local colonics clinic.


geo said...

Rich, I'm the same way. I get in around eight. And by the time most everyone else gets in, I've essentially finished my work for the day.

I stick to my idiosyncrasies. I pal around with virtually no one. Except people like you through the blogosphere.

Most staying late is done for the alleged honor of staying late. Most happens because you weren't thoughtful or organized in the first place. Or because you're too inexperienced to have the confidence to make a decision.

OK. I'm going home now.

Jeff said...

My philosophy exactly. It's always been some kind of bullshit measure of loyalty perpetrated by people look for excuses not to go back to their real lives. Don't get me started. The trick is to work smart, not late. If you don't have the idea by 7PM, you're not going to have it at 2AM. Besides, how much bad pizza can one writer take?

laurenne said...

I'm at an office right now (at 9:30am), and I'm the only one here. And I will be leaving on time too.
And I will not be having beers at 4 when they break them out.
F that high school shit.

Chris Arkell said...

Rich, completely agree. So much of implied or mandatory rituals of this business are completely ridiculous. People brag about working late like its some cool badge of honor and I'm totally horrified.

I have always gotten in early to work and to make the time spent there productive and purposeful. At 5:30-6:00pm on most days it's time to focus on something else. If you can't get it done during that time your're either screwing around, or there's something wrong with the place.

markronquillo said...

Great post, Rich. Sadly, I often find myself hanging around more for appearances than productivity. Thanks for the sanity check.

glasgowdick said...

Clearly, I've struck a nerve here. Tally ho, fellow underachievers.

Anonymous said...

I've never liked the staying late thing, but often I've had no choice - the "Senior Creatives" over me could never be bothered to make a decision until the last possible second. Then I'd have to scramble to put it all together for presentation.

Anonymous said...

So much time is wasted during a normal business day, many agencies only "come alive at five". And often not because of employees' gossiping, chatter and/or compulsive oversharing on Facebook, but because of bad management and ridiculous "team building" parties and meetings. The result being creatives who "saddle in to work" well after the appointed hour, knowing that even if they came in at 7:30, they'd probably be asked to stay past 6:30 or 7:00 because of someone else's poor planning.
When I was on staff where you are currently freelancing, my immediate supervisor at the time criticized me for "getting in too early when nobody else was there yet". Because I had a hellish commute, I set out early, sometimes taking the bus, in order to avoid the worst traffic. She went on to say it made the rest of my department look bad, and it would be much better if I got in a bit later and prepared myself to work late every day.

Anonymous said...

Shoot. Wish I could agree. I like palling around with people at the office. I like working hard, early in the morning, then taking a break to talk to friends I work with (not "co-workers." There's a difference). Bankers show up at 9 and leave at 5. That's not why we're in advertising. We like being creative, even if it means goofing off a little during "normal work hours."

So what if you stay a little late every once in a while? Order some dinner. Talk to someone you've never talked to during the busy day. So what if breaking out the beers leads to some unexpected laughs. Or if it helps make the banner ads go down a little easier. Enjoy the advertising ride. Or take a look out your window when it's 100 degrees and watch the guy pouring asphalt for $7/hr. You'll think twice about complaining about your job.

Anonymous said...

Thinking doesn't only take place in an office. Neither does writing, or art directing. One of the best ideas I had recently was in the shower before I went to bed.

We are advertising to people who hate advertising. And that tells me that my ideas need to come from experiencing life outside of advertising.

Creatives, or companies, that claim office time = productive time are probably not very creative.

Patrick Scullin said...

Great post. If one must continually pull all nighters to create work, perhaps one is in the wrong career.

Anonymous said...

I agree. People used to say pressure makes diamonds. I think pressure causes constipation.

George Gier said...

"Working Late" is for the young. It provides them a place to be, food to eat, and friends to hang with when they have an apartment that's not as nice as the agency, a refrigerator without food, and friends who'd rather drink beer for free in an agency than pay for it in a bar. It's fun and a great part of one's ad career. But once you have a family- optimize your time, make decisions and then get your ass home to your kids. By the time you get married and have kids you ought to have developed the ability to create great ideas a lot faster than when you were a newbie anyway. A creative person with kids who consistently works late is either not very good or a lost soul. Frankly, I find it sad. And ultimately one day, much further in the future, they will too.

Nate Davis said...

Great reminder Dick, and equally so for the corroborating comments. This post reminds me of an anecdote from the business book "Good to Great" where the CEO of Walgreens--a multibillion-dollar company--talked about working 9 to 5 pretty much every day. His point was that if you're in the right job (or if, as a manager, you hire the right people), you should be able to get your work done in 40 hours a week. And since he had vastly more responsibility that I will ever have, that lesson stuck.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but isn't the whole point is that we DON'T WANT TO WORK AT FUCKING WALGREENS?!! I mean, jeez-louise, how about a little perspective here...