Most of those working in the trenches of mundanity, I salute you

With all the focus among us advertising creatures on what the cool new thing is, how many of us are working on accounts that are susceptible to that thing, whatever it is?

I keep thinking that, while we all look at and talk about cool advertising stuff online and in trade journals and so on, it’s probably only one percent of us or five percent of us that actually do that stuff, while the rest of us are working on updating a cereal box, or developing a postcard mailer to executives at banks, or refreshing the website of a manufacturer of fasteners, or creating in-store signage at some donut chain, or shooting another sappy hospital commercial or a spot for energy bars or Endust, or putting together a sales kit to doctors promoting some new pharmaceutical product or working on some piece of a telecommunications company’s vast direct mail program or a new 4th of July promotion for frozen fish sticks or yet another banner ad for wireless headphones or . . .

None of which really qualifies, generally, as the cool stuff.

So that little sliver of the industry represented by the Crispins and the Goodbys and the Chiats and the Mothers and the [insert other hip agencies here] gets to work on the cool stuff (though, truth be told, only a certain portion of the folks at those agencies get to do the cool stuff while another sizeable portion are relegated to doing the less cool stuff for presumably otherwise cool clients.)

The remainder of us, the vast majority, will never work at those places. Instead, we will labor at the big dinosaur agencies like DDB and DraftFCB and Burnett and Grey and BBDO and Burnett and JWT, where one half of one percent of the work approaches coolness and is submitted for consideration at Cannes, etc.

Or we work at unremarkable mid-sized and small ad agencies or design firms or interactive firms or DM houses or promotions houses or we are freelance, and we do all the “workmanlike” heavy lifting that keeps American commerce’s conversation going, fueling the machine of free enterprise and we take pride in occasionally solving very hard communications problems with solutions that are more eloquent and interesting than anyone cares to hear us explain.

Or we don’t, and instead we crank out crap, knowing full well that it’s crap, and we look at and talk about cool advertising stuff online and in trade journals and so on.

Ask not for whom the bell curve tolls. It tolls for thee. And me.

NOTE TO LAURENCE MINSKY: Thanks for the thoughtful amplification and expansion on my post of last week. I heartily endorse your point. By the way, the spot I was working on was a TV spot, not a radio spot. But both media share this issue.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I work at a small agency with some relatively mundane accounts. But, surprisingly we get to do some pretty creative stuff. It won't win at Cannes. In fact it won't even get to Cannes. In fact it doesn't have a passport and thinks Paris, TX sounds damn glamorous these days.

But, I keep the "cool stuff" in my arsenal and use it as inspiration to keep looking at problems differently. How do I up the hip quotient on my FSI, knowing full well that none of core consumers are hipsters? Maybe I scrap the FSI altogether. Maybe a widget really is a valuable tool to reach my audience. Or maybe not. Probably not. But it's my responsibility to at least think about alternative options, because relegating myself and my team to churning out crap is a guarantee that my unremarkable agency will never make a mark. And maybe I waste a good dollar on a losing lottery ticket every week. But not buying a ticket guarantees that I'll never win.

Christopher said...

Was that supposed to be depressing? Because now I feel like shite. Thank goodness it's Friday. You just just described my life. And really, is it worth living to be mediocre? To just do passable because the client is happy and it pays the bills? I guess I had hoped for something more out of life.

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