Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It Takes All Types

I became a copywriter in 1984. Since then, I've met all kinds of creative people. More, I would argue, than the average 44 year old.

I've met the Good German. You know this person. He is or she is willing to do whatever management wants them to do.

"Cram these 8 unique selling points into this 30 second commercial."

"You got it boss."

"When you're done with that, give me a 15 second cut down. With the same 8 points."

"No problemo."

Then there's Petey Politician. Sadly, you've come across this shifty person too. He or she is always two moves ahead of you. And operates in that vague netherworld behind closed doors or after hours drinking establishments.

Petey Politician is so skilled with the back-stabbing knife that he or she can wield it out in the open, even while reviewing work at a creative gang bang.

"This work is great. And it seems to be on strategy. But is it ON strategy?"

A subtle change in inflection, but Karl Rove will tell you, that's all it takes. Next thing you know, your campaign is going in the storage files and your rival's campaign is going to the storyboard phase.

And then there's Herman Hardhead, the Passionate Purist. My favorite.

If you haven't known or met these folks you're missing out on the fun this business has to offer. Because these are the people, who, through their actions, their refusal to give one inch, their volcanic tantrums, give birth to the stories that get told at raucous Christmas parties or 15 hour shoots in the flats of Ridgewood Crest.

In accordance with R17 no-name policy I won't divulge his identity, but I remember one particularly short-fused writer, who came to Chiat/Day via Wieden & Kennedy. When it came time to defend his work, he Defended his work. First with his sailor's tongue. And then, more often than not, with his well-calloused fists.

Furniture got busted.
Foamcore boards got torn in two.
And panicked Account people and planners left the room crying.

Good times.

Though not skilled in the art of pugilism, I've also been known to be obstinate. However, pushed, shoved and threatened with unemployment, I've often folded like a cheap hotel wedding chair.

I have a friend who is a bonafide Purist. He refuses to suffer the Death of a Thousand Cuts. I vividly recall the time he was asked to make a small creative change, a change he was convinced would compromise the spot that had spent months in the gestation period. Whereas most people would have acceded to the tiny revisions. He wouldn't budge and stood his ground.

"I'd rather kill the concept and come up with a new idea."

A demonstrable act of courage, conviction and uncompromising creativity.
An inspiration, really.

Six months later, the client came up with a new agency.


Anonymous said...

You became a copywriter when you were 14?

Rich Siegel said...

Yes. Why?