Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In my day

Before I start, you'll have to pardon me while I slip into my old man cranky pants, the Sansa-belts with the elastic waistline that can accommodate my expanding belly full of rage.

Because today I want to talk about today's kids. More specifically, today's kids who work in advertising. Even more specifically, today's kids who work in the creative departments of today's advertising agencies.

They have it too easy.

I'm sure they work the long hours. They sacrifice their weekends. They cancel vacations just like I did. I'm not saying they don't work hard. I'm saying they have no business being in the business. Yet.

They have it too easy because they got in too easily.

Ever since the advent of the big holding companies advertising agencies have been seeking ways to hold the bottom line. The first cost-cutting maneuvers were obvious. No one travels in business class anymore. No one stays in fancy hotels. And the Christmas bonus, which had already become a thing of the past, would now become a thing of which no one spoke of.

Then some douchenozzle in the Accounting Department decided agencies could save a bundle of money if they farmed their own talent. Not unlike farmed salmon, which looks and smells like the real thing, but doesn't taste as good as their free range brethren caught in the wild.

This gave birth to a number of "intern" or "young gun" programs where promising students were fast-tracked right out of colleges and right into agency cubicles. Again, not unlike the farmed salmon.

And while at first blush this may appear to make perfect sense, on second blush it does not.

I can only speak from personal experience but getting my foot in the door-- which took quite a few years -- was a vital part of the creative maturing process. In addition to the constant refinement and rebirthing of my book, I wrote and designed my own self promos. Through trial and error, I learned what worked and what did not. Most did not.

But like the study of Algebra, the result was not half as important as the process. It forced me (and dozens of my contemporary colleagues) to be more focused, more discerning, more in tune with what an agency was looking for in a young copywriter. In other words, it was good training in the art of persuasion. The kind of training today's kids aren't getting.

More importantly, while I was doing everything humanly possible to get a foot in the door at a legitimate ad agency I was paying my dues, cranking out thousands of help wanted ads at a recruitment ad agency. Am I being hyperbolic? No, I am not. On a typical day, I knocked out 15-20 ads, each one about 500 words long. That's a lot of shitty writing. But everyday it made me less and less shittier.

Doubt the veracity of my theory? Consider the fact that it took Lee Clow two years before he initially got the past the receptionist at Chiat/Day.

In my case it took even longer.

Am I bothered by the preponderance of all these kids wondering the halls of today's creative department?
Yes. And No.

Sure it would have made my life a whole lot easier had I been hired under the auspices of some cubbie copywriting program. That part bothers me.

But when today's kids can't crack an indecipherable brief or deliver some insight on a marketing problem because the only life experience they have is planking, clubbing and sharing twit pics, well, that's what makes my phone ring.

And that part never bothers me.

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