Monday, May 20, 2013

From Mad Men to Sad Men

I've got be careful not to date myself here.
I referenced Mad Men in the title but I did not work in advertising on Madison Avenue in the 1960's. I'm much younger than that.

I did catch the tail end of a different golden era of the industry, when excess ruled the day and nothing was too good for the folks in the Creative Department. (In my Homer Simpson voice: "Mmmmmm, agency-issued credit cards.")

For instance, on my first day as a real copywriter at a real ad agency I was escorted by a woman from the Human Resources Department to my very first office. This was not an office I was sharing with an art director, she had her own office. This was my office.

And it was magnificent.

Located on the 18th floor of a Century City high rise, the office had floor-to-ceiling windows with an incredible view of the Santa Monica Bay, provided it wasn't smoggy or there was no June Gloom. It sported a long leather couch, I won't even speculate. And even had a small round table for kibitzing. The desk had its own credenza, a word I immediately had to look up in the dictionary.

It was, by today's standards, palatial.

In fact, you could cram the entire staff of a digital boutique agency into the square footage of that office. And still have room for a couple of dinosaurs, you know old school brand guys like myself, to crank out the TV campaigns or any print ads that actually required writing.

It was a far cry from what I find today.

Where instead of offices, creative people are assigned seats at a long communal work table. And are expected to deliver breakthrough ideas -- faster and cheaper -- while working within spitting distance of other creatives who seem to nourish themselves on nothing but curry-based meals, morning, noon and night.

Have I painted a not-so-pretty picture?
Well, the indignity does not end there.

Because at this long communal work table, there's always the guy with the $500 portable speakers that can plug into a laptop and fill the room with the always-pleasant, easy-listening sound of house music or hip-hop.

Unhhhh. Unhhhhh.

My understanding is that in order to avoid being tortured with this kind of "music", prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have opted for the less odious waterboarding.

That's not the only audio assault. You see, despite wearing the most expensive sound canceling headphones manufactured by Bose, the over-the-ear QC 15's, there's no drowning out the non-stop zealous chorus of youthful corporate camaraderie:

"That's dope, bro!" 

Heard, not five or ten times in the course of a day, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 138.

Ironically, it's a sentiment I'd like echoed to the agency brass who believe this is the best environment for billion dollar brand stewardship.

"That's dope!", I'd say straight faced without any hint of the hipster connotation, "really dope."

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