Thursday, December 22, 2016
On crappy jobs
I've often said it's harder to do crappy work than it is to do the good stuff. And if you've had the breadth of assignments I have, you'd most certainly agree.
Case in point, not long ago, my partner and I had a gun pointed at our heads and were asked to solve a client crisis. The brief requested spots that were to be executed in the classic Problem/Solution formula.
OK, a little too prescriptive if you ask me, but sometimes you just have to shake your head, then shake off the cobwebs and start clacking on the keyboard.
We put some topspin on the assignment but, and I say this humbly, we delivered. So much so, that we confidently presented the work in progress to one of the clients over the phone.
The reaction was quite positive. At first.
Later in the day, the same day, there were "questions."
Just "things we want to discuss."
"We really like this Problem/Solution spot you guys created. Really like it. We're just wondering, do the problems have to seem so negative?"
You may think I'm exaggerating or breaking out the hyperbole stick to make this story more interesting, but that is a verbatim quote. And if ever called to swear in a deposition I would, without any fear of perjuring myself, declare those were the exact words.
I wanted to leap across the table and scream.
"That's what makes them problems, they're negative!"
Instead, I reminded myself of the two college tuitions I'm paying, wrapped my last shred of dignity in two ply toilet paper, flushed it out towards the Pacific and said...
"Sure, why don't we take a look at that."
Last year, I was hired by a local company that keeps the lights on by keeping mailboxes filled with junk mail. Postcards, letters, flyers, email blasts, all comped and created with one goal in mind, to get people who are currently leasing overpriced automobiles back into a new lease. Or a new vehicle. And these folks are relentless.
My job, at a considerably lower day rate, was to craft these detailed messages, devoid of any creativity, and hammer home the leasing options. The work was purely supplemental, meaning I could do it in conjunction with other assignments, and it was all remote, meaning I could do it between my morning nap and my afternoon nap.
But it was so fucking dreadful.
"Can we change 'learn more' to 'discover more'?"
"Can you put the antilock brakes before the extra cargo space?"
"Can you come up with a different way to say Go?"
In my 13 years of freelancing I've always gone out of my way to accommodate the smaller agencies, smaller production houses and smaller clients, by being flexible on my day rate for their less than glamorous assignments.
But maybe I've been going about this all wrong. Maybe I should be charging them more? And instead perhaps I should discount my fee for the big agencies seeking big ideas?
Hello Droga 5, Wieden Kenney and BBDO, I'm looking at you.