Monday, March 24, 2014

My Portfolio Sucks

Last week I was going over the collection of work I have amassed over the last 25 years in advertising. I did not walk away from the review a happy man.

Much like the woman pictured above, with the plethora of penises (penii?) tattooed to her skull, the vision in my head did not sync up with the reality on the page.

Please do not read this as some kind of humble brag.
It is not.

I am seriously disillusioned for all that I do NOT have to show for my professional efforts. Yes, I've had the good fortune to produce some good work over the years. But I've had the greater misfortune of watching much, much more good work ---sometime even great work -- die on the vine.

I am by no means alone in this respect. In fact, if you're involved in the creative endeavor and you're reading this, I can already detect your blood pressure beginning to rise.

I can't speak for you and your failures, for that I suggest signing up for Wordpress or Blogger, but I can, and often do, speak on mine.

And after much consideration, I've discovered there's a very good reason why my portfolio sucks. Frankly it has little to do with me.

That's right, it's not my fault.

War Story Time:

Back in 1999, we met with Stuart Wolff, the CEO of This was a man who inhaled his own fumes and often talked of himself in the third person. Comparing his yet-to-be-written legacy to that of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

We had presented many campaigns to Stuart, but one rose above the rest. He was ready to green light the project, but wanted us to "change the paradigm." In the late 90's everything was about paradigm changing.  Stuart challenged us to find a way to make people consider paying to see our commercials.

My partner and I suggested filming an entire movie, which we could distribute and monetize, and extract the commercials from the footage. It had never been done before. And the approach was both ambitious and fraught with risk.

Because it was iffy, agency naysayers on the account and management side cowered in fear.

"You're not making a movie, Rich."

"Learn to compromise. Why do you have to be such a stubborn ass?"

"Give it a rest, Fellini."

I suppose we should have listened and made nice-nice with the agency brass. But we didn't. We stuck to our guns and persisted like an open wound. The battle of wills, which often got ugly, lasted more than a year. In the end, the movie and the commercials got made.

The acrimony earned my partner and I, a severance check and a security-guard escort from the building.

That was a costly victory, in a war that has seen far too many defeats.

The point is this. My portfolio -- and most likely yours -- would be 100 times better if the people who got in the way, got out of the way.

The other point is this. I don't fight anymore. Particularly now that I'm a freelancer. Because many agencies, not all, don't want fighters. They flap their tongues about cultivating rebels, misfits, and passionate artists who have a unique voice and challenge the status quo.

But what they really want are cheap Kool-Aid drinking drones, who can stylishly sport a nose ring or a sleeve of tattoos, and toe the company line 12 hours a day from the comfort of their Aeron chairs at the Creative Department Community Table.