Thursday, January 14, 2016

How big can we get?

I started my copywriting career at the now defunct Abert, Newhoff & Burr, but things didn't really click until I moved over to Chiat/Day (the proper name for the agency, BTW.) There, I had the pleasure of working in the vicinity of the Grouchy One, Jay Chiat.

Every new employee was given one of these little red handbooks. In it, was the collected wisdom and seeming incongruencies of the man and the agency.

For instance, Jay loudly and proudly proclaimed, "I see everything that goes out the door." This is followed quickly by a directive to his then executive assistant Sharon, "Why are you showing me this?"

I bring this up because the conundrum that Jay faced in 1994, still haunts us today. Only it has gotten worse.

Let's step back for a second.

There was a time when amongst the thousands of assignments floating around the agency, everyone recognized the ones that were "D&D" or simply Down and Dirty. The pay-the-bills evil schlock that needed to be executed, expedited and expectorated with the least amount of effort.

The back of an FSI.
The 5 second tag on a Tier Two spot.
The 10 second live radio DJ read.
The race win ad at the Des Moines BMX quarterfinals.
The 78 X 125 thumbnail banner ad for Harvard Business

There was an unspoken understanding that, placed in the hands of competent, talented creatives, these little down and dirty jobs could be handled quickly and efficiently. That understanding was expelled from the building. Along with the FAX machines and the notion that employees should have weekends off.

Today, there are no down and dirty jobs. Everything, and I mean everything, is a 5 Alarm Fire Drill. Worthy of late night Pad Thai noodles, a few wasted weekends and a 138 page deck. Gotta have a deck.

"If we don't get this hang tag right, those guys from Droga5 will sweep in here and steal this account."

"The new Tweet has been approved by the Group Creative Director who needs to show it to the Executive Creative Director who needs to run it by the Chief Creative Officer who will then pass it on to the CEO."

"Where are we on the 17th round of revisions to the CTA?"

Not only does my observation apply to everything, it applies to everywhere.

As I've noted before, as a freelancer I work in many, many different agencies of all shapes and sizes. And I've seen this expensive phenomena of micro(aggressive)management across the board.

A few months ago I sat in on a conference call. And as the Assistant Associate Planner of Experiential Digital Strategies was merging trapezoids and parallelograms via the magic of Powerpoint, I took the time to scan through the meeting attendee list.

There were no less than 47 people on the call.

That's two football teams. Two baseball teams. And seven guys in the Men's Room standing way too close to each other at the stadium stainless steel pee trough.

Jay Chiat one famously asked, "How big can we get before we get bad?"

He might have added, "How big can we get before we get bloated?"

1 comment:

sheriffshooter said...

Hi Rich, there are a good many things that get my goat, but what really takes the cake is all these creative leaders who still seem to believe they (and we) work in a creative industry. Far from it. I lose my head every time I hear about Portfolio Night, where all these jackasses get up and judge aspiring copywriters' folios. What I'd really like to see is ONE honest guy get up and say you know what, this is bullshit. We shouldn't be lying to these kids. Our business isn't creative anymore.