Entries tagged with “advertising”.

I play James Lipton to an advertising superstar. Classy set, isn't it?


Back in November of 2007, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Bogusky at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta. I was El Presidente of the Atlanta Ad Club, and Alex was booked to talk with us. Rather than have a lecture, I wanted to interview him like James Lipton interviews megastars on “Inside The Actors Studio.” Alex liked the idea and was terrific. We packed the house with over 350 people, by far the largest AAC event in recent history, and Alex generously shared his wisdom and insights. It was an inspiring evening and afterward Alex bolted to catch a private plane and fly to Seattle. The agency was pitching Microsoft the next day. They did and they won. Just another day for CP+B.

The communications world was jolted recently when Alex Bogusky, creative Wunderkind of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, announced he was leaving the ad world to pursue other interests.

He wants to do more do-gooder types of things– helping people and what have you. He had received his money from selling to MDC and decided he’d had enough of the adworld. His ex- agency still handles Burger King and Domino’s Pizza and Alex was becoming more vocal about touchy subjects like advertising to children and selling foods that are hardly healthy. He took his ball and left the playground. Good for him; it’s admirable to want to help others, and everyone is curious to see what he does next.

In an industry where there are few interesting people, few visionaries/iconoclasts/leaders, Alex Bogusky stood out. He was controversial at times, but always sincere and passionate. The work, love it or hate it, changed many of the rules of how people communicated with people.

Best wishes, Alex, you were a great guest and voice for our industry.

    (As a public service, the following is the distillation of many job hunts and my surfing of wild economic times. Read and share with anyone you know hunting for a job. “The Lint Screen” is working hard to get this economy running full blast.)

    Your boss asks you if “you have a minute”, and the pit of your stomach jumps into your heart and goes all Ricky Ricardo banging the congas and sending an alarm to your spinal highway dispersing anxiety on all major interstates and blue highways of your central nervous system. The message: your number’s up, you’re about to be whacked, laid-off, let-go, fired.

Do you have a minute?

"Do you have a minute?"

    Or, if you prefer sunshine with your dark clouds, you’re about to be “made available for exciting new opportunities.”

    Yes, it sucks.
    Yes, you were screwed.
    Yes, others deserve it more than you.
    Yes, your ego is bruised and bleeding and feeling immense pain.
    None of that matters now. The decision’s been made, you’ve been cast to the sea, and now you’re going to have to find a new land to call home.

    Allow me to help.

    In my checkered ad career pinging across the country, I’ve been ‘made available’ three times. Each was painful, but necessary to temper the steel of my resolve and give me the energy to prove those firing bastards wrong.

    The fact is, I’m too stubborn and headstrong a man to have ever been happy working for someone else. Clients, I understood– but the Shakespearean characters I met at ad agencies, not so much. I was too entrepreneurial and lousy at playing agency politics. It took me a long while to realize this and some painful lessons, but eventually I learned. Fate has a way of nudging one into course corrections.

    There is no getting around the pain of rejection because that’s what being fired is: flat-out rejection. Some live, some die.

    You? You’re a casualty. With this economy, companies are dropping bodies like the Mafia hitting the mattresses. It’s not personal (even if your ego says it is).

    It doesn’t matter, what’s done is done. Mourn, grieve, wallow in self despair, throw your ego a pity party, vent your spleen, spew venom, ooze bitterness and exhaust your frustrations and quell your rage. There, there, yes, you deserved better, you poor dear. You deserved much, much better!

    Now, put on your big boy or girl pants, take an adult pill and get on with it. Chances are you weren’t ecstatic in your job anyway (were you?). Maybe deep down you always knew it wasn’t the right place for you, a good place for you. Well congratulations, chum, you just got another lottery ticket. Let’s do better this time, shall we?

    Where to start your job hunt? Let’s make a checklist to keep things organized (20 seems a good number).

    1. File for unemployment. It’s depressing, humbling, ego-shattering and terribly humiliating–– but the pay is worth it.

    2. Look inside before looking outside. Before you start a job hunt, start with yourself. Spend some time and really think about what you want. What makes you happy? What frustrates you? What conditions help you excel? What conditions force you to you fail? What excites you, energizes you, gives you a feeling of accomplishment? What erodes your soul and saddens your heart? Let’s avoid those, shall we?

    There is much to think about, and now is the time to think about it. It’s time to rearrange the furniture in your head– those notions that you always bump into, those past behavioral patterns that constantly trip you—now is the time for you to think about product YOU.

Remember your glory days. Celebrate them.

Remember your glory days and celebrate them.

    3 Recount your successes. Write them down in a burst of words, don’t edit, just flow. This isn’t for publication; this is for your subconscious to give your consciousness a wake-up call. Give yourself some pats on the back. Perch yourself on the ledge of the convertible and do a parade wave as you recall past accomplishments. Let your ego drive slowly, avoid book depository buildings and enjoy the ride.

    4. Now that you’re feeling better, more confident, start working on your resume. Make it interesting. Pepper it with action verbs, attach numbers (if possible) to your accomplishments. Make it sound human, engaging, vital. Imagine the type of boss you want to work for. Imagine what type of person that person would want to hire (you’ve have thought about this, haven’t you?). Be that person (your future boss) and write to that person.

    5. If you’re a creative person, pull together your best samples. Show the work that you love, the work that reflects your talent, sensibilities, creativity, humanity and personality. Don’t be afraid to show unproduced work if it’s better than much of your produced stuff. Great ideas trump all. Show your best and let it be your litmus test for your job hunt. If you love it and the person you’re interviewing with hates it, you have a good barometer that you may not enjoy working together. A wise CD once told me it’s a lot easier to find people who share your tastes rather than trying to fight people into sharing your vision. Your work is a reflection of you, use it to protect yourself from a bad fit.

    6. Avoid the stench of ‘misunderstood genius.’ Creative people go through a natural maturation process. Many of us believe everything we do is brilliant and if it does not get produced it’s because of idiot creative directors or lousy clients or stupid focus groups. These people are misunderstood geniuses who somehow are being rejected by an imbecilic world. While most good creative people grow out of this phase, some unfortunately never do. They stew in bitterness and resentment and frankly are a complete drag to have around. You’re not one of them, are you?

    7. Don’t carry a portfolio of excuses. There is nothing sadder than someone presenting work that needs justification for why it isn’t very good. No one wants to hear “my hack creative director watered the idea down” or “the client took the heart out of the concept” or “the director really didn’t get the idea.” Frankly, no one cares. It’s your work and you control what you show–– if you don’t like the finished product don’t show it. Or better yet, show unproduced work that you love that has not been tainted by the outside world. Don’t have any of that either? Hmm, maybe it’s time you considered another career. Seriously.

    8. Think geography. Although it sounds basic, many people begin a job hunt without answering a very simple question: Where would you like to live and work? What places are deal breakers? Narrow your search by narrowing your geographical search. If a city interests you, learn all bout the places there you’d like to work, write letters and make calls and arrange a city visit, on your nickel. It’s an investment in your career that shows determination, interest, grit, passion and all those good things potential employers eat up.

Network. We're all connected, baby

Network-- because we're all connected, baby

    9. Network like mad. Don’t think that want ads and Monster and Talent Zoo are the only portals to finding a job. Most jobs never get listed at all. Let people know you’re looking and see where it takes you. Call, write, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo the world. Plants seeds for success.

    10. Talk to headhunters, but don’t think they work for you. Headhunters are paid by employers (if you want to know how business works, always follow the money and it will predict behavior). If a headhunter can make a buck on you, you’re golden– they’ll get your work seen. At that point, your work represents you. If it’s liked, you should get an interview. But headhunters are not in the business of trying to sell candidates. If your work is summarily and continually rejected, headhunters will not be enamored with you. It’s just like realtors selling property. Some properties are hot, some are not. The best way to think of headhunters is like a hunting guide. They can turn you onto something you may not have found otherwise. Headhunters should be a prong of your job hunting attack plan, but not your sole weapon. It’s easy to be lazy about your job hunt, and laziness will ensure you’ll be hunting a long, long time.

    11. Research the places you’d love to work. Chances are you have a list of dream places you’d love to call home. Are they hiring? Who knows and who cares? You’re job is to get an interview. Even if they’re not hiring, you want to be known by them because things change fast and they may need you some day. The more people you know, the better your chances. Get to know as many people as possible and ask them for referrals to other people. Nothing is better than being able to drop a name and open another door. Networking is a beautiful thing and it really works.

    12. Act like an ad pro and treat yourself like a product that is desirable, essential and must be bought. This sounds so basic but it is a tragic mistake way too many people (who should know better) make: be interesting, engaging and compelling in all your communications. All that stuff you’ve learned about advertising, guess what– it applies to you when you’re job hunting. A boring letter for yourself is like a boring product ad. A chest-thumping tirade for yourself is a self-serving ad for a product. THINK: what is this person looking for, how can I help them? Be creative, charming, intriguing and persuasive. Write like a human not a thesaurus. Focus your communications on them, and for God’s sake, be smart about it. Research the company, the person, the clients. Be a sleuth. Know their business, learn as much as you can about the people with hiring power, read everything you can about their market situation, competition, challenges, everything. Then use all those great ad skills you’ve mastered and write some great ads (letters, e-mails, voicemails, etc.) for your terrific product–– you.

    13. Follow up. Give a time when you’ll follow up with a call to arrange an interview. Presumptuous? Sure, but you want to show eagerness, enthusiasm and interest. Then CALL at the appointed hour. Follow through with your follow up. To quote Hunter S. Thompson, “Chase them like rats across the tundra.” Yes, you will meet resistance and rejection–but you will also open a few doors. Remember: nothing happens until you knock.

    14. Freelance. You have skills that are worth money, so try your hand at freelancing. This is a Trojan Horse strategy to job hunting. People are often much more likely to talk to a freelancer than a job hunter because they are buying chunks of time for talent, not the whole  person. So try and get your work seen as a freelancer and let it be known you could be interested in a full time gig for the right company (the soldiers sit quietly in the horse’s belly). The beautiful part about freelancing is it gives you a chance to test drive an agency (it works the same way for them testing you), and you make money while you’re doing it.

Rejection happens. Get over it and keep going.

Rejection happens. Get over it and keep going.

 15. Gird your loins and put yourself out there. Most people hate job hunting for one simple reason: rejection. And rejection sucks big time. Well, there’s no getting around it, you cannot win the lottery without a ticket and you won’t find a job without effort, so get over it and play the game. Many people want to play defense on a job hunt, leave it to the headhunter to act as their agent. If your work’s that good and you’re that fortunate to make it work, you’re lucky. Most people have to do more work. So write the letters, make the calls, augment and alter your attack plans and messaging. Remember, this is a campaign, for you. It’s organic; reflect and change as needed but for goodness sake, keep at it. Persistence and perseverance will win, eventually.

    16. Interview when you interview. Too many job hunters act like a guest on David Letterman when they go on an interview. They wait for the questions and give their answers. They play defense. The silly fools. Yes, you will be asked questions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions, too. Prepare some smart questions (you have done a ton of research on the company, client and person you’re interviewing with, I hope). Be interested and curious. Rather than a job interrogation, have a conversation. Learn about working styles, interests, passions, ambitions, direction, whatever you’d like to know more about. Be genuinely interested because this is someone you will be a spending a lot of time with (if you get hired). This is someone who can make your life better or worse. The person deserves some notice, don’t you think?

    17. Be honest. Really honest. Don’t B.S. whoever you’re interviewing with. Smart people can spot it and less-than-smart people may take you at your word, only to be disappointed later when they find out whatever you said wasn’t true. Besides, why lie about something this important? Be true to yourself in what you like, what you don’t like and want from a working environment. Honesty is your best protection against getting into a bad fit or a hunk o’ hell. Honestly.

    18. Be positive. Talk, be open, caring, empathetic, curious, inquisitive, genuine, cordial and pleasant. No need to torch bridges or spew angry bile about where you worked or the numbskulls you worked with. Try to look forward, not dwell on the angry past (it’s like trying to drive a car while looking only in the rear view mirror). You’ll have plenty of time to wallow in your sorrowful past later (should you choose to, hopefully you won’t). For now, you want to get hired. No one, and I do mean no one, wants to be around a miserable bitter bastard. Imagine that.

    19. Niceness counts. Someone took some time out of his/her busy day to spend time and talk with you. Do the right thing and thank that special person for the courtesy. In an age where everyone is overworked and over-scheduled you should be genuinely appreciative to those who made time for you. Besides, good manners mean a lot and will score you brownie points. There’s nothing wrong with that if it results in gainful employment, right?

    20. Be a shark. Sharks pretty much have to be in constant motion to live. Think like a shark in your job hunt. Be organized, methodical, systematic, creative and persistent. You’ve got to keep at it, digging deeper and experimenting to get yourself out there, known, loved and hired. This crappy economy will thin the herd of weaklings. Step up, sharkie, and keep hunting until you get your fill.

     And for goodness sake, try and enjoy yourself. I used to work with a talented art director who’d say, “If it were easy, it’d be easy.” True enough. Job hunting isn’t easy. Learn, improvise and enjoy the ride.

      If you’re like me, you’re married to my wife and have two sons. You are also earning your daily bread by toiling in the mine shafts of advertising creativity. And if there’s a wilder, more woolly boolly, hurly-burly business, well I’d sure like to know about it!

      This ad game is chock full o’ interesting people with fascinating stories. Here are some of the true snapshots of this business known in the industrial waste management industry as “advertising.”

      An account guy and a copywriter were on their way to a client meeting in New York. The writer was carrying a portfolio case stuffed with fourteen campaigns; the fruits of six months hard labor. The writer stopped at the entrance to the plane and said, “No, I can’t go! This plane is going to crash unexpectedly and everyone in it is going to die, die, die, I tells ya–– die ’til they’re dead!”

       The account supervisor tried to reason with him. “Come on, this flight’ll be perfectly safe, and the little bag of nuts will be fresh and delicious.”

You're not going to believe this story...

You're not going to believe this story...

      “No,” said the trembling writer, “I have a premonition of impending doom! Feel my spine, it’s chilly! And look, my goosebumps are breaking out in hives. Let’s take a later flight.”

       “Don’t be preposterous,” the account man said as he wrestled the portfolio from the writer’s hands, “We have exit row seats.” He dashed on board as the writer nervously watched the plane back away from the gate. The writer had tears streaming down his face as he shouted, “Does anyone have a Kleenex?! I’m drowning here! Kleenex, please!”

      As you probably guessed, the flight did not crash. In fact, the plane arrived twenty minutes early (tragically, the little bag of nuts were stale). The writer who had the premonition was fired for insubordination, and stealing computers. Thus, his vision of impending doom had indeed come true!

      There was a happy side to this story, however. The client hated all fourteen campaigns in the portfolio case, but he and the account guy came up with some ads and had a pool of art directors “jiffy-them-up!” The account man was promoted and well-moneyed for his efforts.

      There’s the famous story of the movie theatre owner who spliced subliminal ads for soft drinks and popcorn into a feature film. The audience watched the entire film and felt the subliminal scenes added little to the plot, although they considered popcorn a good character and wished the soft drink could have had an action scene.

      Oh, and what about the tale of the writer who had writer’s block for 31 years– he didn’t produce one single good idea for over three decades! He invested well, however, and eventually retired to a small mansion in the south of France. Talk about embarrassment…

       What about the short lived campaign featuring “Harry the Happy Hemorrhoid”? Maybe he wasn’t the best spokes-creation for Ritz crackers, but he was a spunky little fellow!

       There’s the legendary story of the agency that tried to buy the rights to the Beatles’ classic song  “Yesterday” and change the lyrics for a Pick ‘n Pay Shoes campaign. “Pick ‘n Pay… all the shoes I want and where my socks will stay/ how I love that place in a podiatry sort of way/ oh, I believe in Pick ‘n Pay… why, she paid re-tail/ I don’t know/ she wouldn’t say/ I said, ‘save-on-a-terrific-selection-of-the-latest-styles-and-colors- in-quality-footwear-including-sensible-yet-fashionable-pumps’/ oh, how I believe in Pick ‘n Pa-a-a-a-a-y!/ Pick ‘n Pay…”

      At the eleventh hour, the negotiation for the song rights were called off when it was discovered the entire production budget was $4,100. 

       Then there’s the famous story about the art director who worked simultaneously at two large Chicago ad agencies, without either knowing about the other. The wiseacre was discovered eventually, however, after 39 years. It seems both his retirement parties were scheduled for the same night. 

      Finally, there’s the incredible story of the creative director interviewing a young writer and discovering samples of his (the CD’s) work in the guy’s book! “Hey,” said the irate creative director, “this is my resume… these are my ads… and this bottle appears to contain my urine samples!”

       The embarrassed writer quickly gathered his materials, stuffed them into his portfolio, produced a trombone and blasted “Wah Wah Wahhhhhh!”  as he dashed out the office.

       It’s a wacky business, this ad game, but it’s safer than catching knives dropped from buildings.

He knew a thing or two about success, whee-doggies!

He knew a thing or two about success, whee-doggies!

(The following is a commencement address given by Patrick Scullin, ECD of Ames Scullin O’Haire Advertising/Atlanta, to the graduating class of The Huckington School of Advertising Arts & Sciences & Whatnot in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania)

Greetings, graduating class of 2008. I am honored to be here and delighted that this P.A. system is working. “Check, one-two. Check. Ladies and gentlemen–– The Rolling Stones!

Uh, just kidding.

(Silence envelopes the crowd. A cricket chirps. A mime slowly slashes his vocal chords…)

As I stand here today looking out at all you young, eager and energetic, hopeful people, I realize I am seeing our most valuable asset for the future. I am speaking of course not about youth, but about gold.

For I see that many of you are wearing glittering gold jewelry. Gold is our most precious asset because it gleams and people have always valued a good gleam. History is filled with stories of gold and its fantabulous value.

Take Midas. Everything he touched turned to gold, but remember that he made his fortune in mufflers and brake repair. Shocks, too. And never underestimate what you can get for a good alignment job.

Then there was that goose that laid golden eggs and that woman who spun gold–– both skills that look great on a resume and really help boost one’s popularity.

And what about the incredible story of Jed Clampett, a poor mountaineer who was shooting for some food when up from the ground came a bubblin’ crude–– oil, that is, children, black gold, Texas tea. I think we all know the happy ending of that story: swimming pools, movie stars. Yes, gold can change lives for the better.

Gold has always been worth its weight in gold, and now that you will be pursuing a career in advertising, gold will soon be yours. Next to advanced vinyl repair or being Warren Buffet, there’s no easier way to make BIG money fast than advertising.

I’d like to share some wisdom I’ve learned throughout my distinguished career. Wisdom I wish some learned person had told me when I was young and being thrust from the comforting incubator of academia into the cold reality of constant disappointment, bitter frustration and the awful agony that is this miserable hell on earth we must endure before our reward of a dirt nap and discovery if we’ve bet on the right religion.

In advertising, it’s our job to “communicate” with people in clear, concise words and visuals that leave no room for ambiguity or opportunity for miscommunication, which in and of itself would be a form of communication, but not the form of communication you originally intended and so would be bad because it is not what you set out to do when you set out to do what you originally set out to do. The communicating part, I mean.

To communicate clearly, I think language comes in handy. The importance of language cannot be expressed in silly little words, but the effects speak for themselves–– especially those energetic verbs shoving lazy good for nothing nouns around and forcing them pick up the pace.

We can also communicate with images. Someone once said ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ but try communicating that with just one picture. Can’t be done. You need words–– about seven of them should do: a picture is worth a thousand words.

In advertising, our job is to communicate in persuasive ways, making our clients’ products or services absolutely irresistible. How does one entice the public into buying? With psychology, or as I call it “mental tom foolery and tinker-majiggity-wiggity-woo-woo.”

All humans want love, security, sex appeal, power, soft gripped kitchen utensils, immortality, whiter teeth and X-ray vision. So pass your client’s product or service through the prism of potential consumer triggers.

A soft drink is not just carbonated sugar water; it can be the ticket to making someone irresistible. For example, take a picture of attractive people gathered around a soft drink smiling and looking as if an orgy might break out at any moment. Marry it to a provocative headline like, “Refresh all your parts.” Slap a logo in the lower right corner and you’ve got yourself a sure strong seller (logos always go in the right corner, unless your ad is running in the Torah).

Some say that the public is less susceptible to our messages. They claim a growing cynicism has made it nearly impossible to gain the trust of the public through paid media. To that I say, “Oh yeah?”

A suspicious public is merely one that needs more selling. Which means adding extra power to your messages. Watch how easy this is.

Before: Crest toothpaste fights cavities. After: “Crest toothpaste fights cavities. It really does, honest. Ask your dentist if you don’t believe us, you cynical soon-to-be-toothless bastard!”

Before: Nike. Swoosh symbol. After: “Nike represents wonderfulness in quality athletic footwear that gives one a sense of coolness. And now Nikes come in styles for your left and your right foot. Step lively, friend… step Nike!”

Before: BMW. The ultimate driving machine. After: “I care about the attractiveness of my automobile—mister, make mine a BMW!”

With the correct message, cynicism melts like ice in Satan’s tumbler.

There is much more I could say, but I see by your subtle body language— the closed eyelids and raised middle fingers—that perhaps you’ve heard enough.

Thank you. Remember one thing: don’t sell your souls for 30 pieces of silver. Hold out for 30 pieces of gold. Gold’s the cheese you want, people.

And one last thing–– could someone validate my parking, please?


What a long strange trip it's been.

What a long strange trip it's been.

Television teaches a lot.

To people outside the advertising industry, their view of our world was McMahon and Tate. What they knew of our profession was from watching “Bewitched” and seeing Darrin Stephens conjure up brilliant ideas and pitch them to clients as Larry Tate slapped them on the back and cheered Darrin on. Larry was no empty suit, no siree.

Oh, and “Bewitched” also taught that successful admen often marry witches and wacky hi-jinks ensued.

Today people have a new compass on TV to give some insight into our profession: “Mad Men” on AMC.

The time is 1960. The WASPy agency Sterling Cooper precedes the creative revolution of McMahon and Tate. Our main character is Don Draper, a brilliant adman who conjures ideas the old fashioned way: in thick fogs of cigarette smoke, bottomless tumblers of amber booze and tumbles between the sheets with women who cannot refuse his amorous pitches.

Don Draper doesn’t need his wife to twitch her nose. He sweats out his ideas, dammit.

He’s a man of mystery with a past as murky as beef stew in a black onyx bowl. He’s married to a beautiful woman and has two perfect children but his soul and conscious are MIA. Despite his flaws, Don is a corporate riser because he gets the job done dealing with weasels that populate his working life and charming clients endlessly. He’s smooth as a grease slick on satin.

These are the glory days of the agency business with big fat 15% media commissions and clients who not only seek their agency’s counsel, they actually heed it and are gratefully appreciative. It’s the days of account people who are so powerful they can hip pocket a hunk of business and carry it across town like a wounded bird, safely depositing it into a new agency nest.

It’s a time B.C. (before cable), there are three networks, no computers, no mobile phones, no modern day distractions like 5,000 daily sales messages. The public can be reached easily and they are not yet cynical or jaded–– people may actually believe what admen have to say! Imagine that.

Admen are the rock stars of the biz world. One bourbon breakfasts lead to three martini lunches stumbling into cocktail hours followed by slabs of beef, buttery baked potatoes heaped with gobs of sour cream and a few good belts of whiskey.

Order a couple nightcaps, weave your way home and hit the reset button. Tomorrow’s another bender.

The adworld of the early 60’s is a good place for a man to be provided he’s the right color, right religion, right educational background and he’s a real man’s man (there is a homosexual character who’s so closeted he probably smells of mothballs). It’s a time of narrow minds, open prejudice, open discrimination and sexual harassment galore. Women are objectified and nullified, unless they can type or take dictation. Sad, but true. We’ve all come a long way, baby.

Sterling Cooper is an old school ad agency. The Mad Men deride and mock the early Volkswagen Beetle ads being put out by the upstarts at Doyle Dane Bernbach. “Cute” and “creative” are code for ads that won’t work and ads that won’t sell. The Mad Men are miffed by ads that tell truth and poke a little fun at a product. But dinosaurs never see the meteors coming their way–– in fact, some agencies today are still wondering if interactive advertising is just a passing fad.

So why is “Mad Men” such a hit with fans and critics? Because it’s a slick period piece soap opera of a glamorous profession, well written, superbly acted and exquisitely produced. Yes, Virginia, advertising is still considered a glamorous profession to the outside world, and this show is a snapshot of the business in its most sumptuous and exotic time. The creative revolution is underway but the fat cats at Sterling Cooper have yet to feel the ripples. Rumor has it in season two that will change.

I love “Mad Men” and I hate “Mad Men”. It shows our profession in a glorious time as a business and an ugly time of society. But one thing’s for sure: people seem to have had a lot more fun back then. I’ll wager people were having a lot more fun when you first got into the business, too. Was it our youth, or has society just gotten less fun?

I believe there’s a drastic fun shortage in the business world today. Everyone’s over-worked, over-scheduled, over-connected. We mine our various screens for e-mails and messages and life slips by. I recently read where the average person laughs 15 times a day. Factor in sleep and that’s less than one laugh an hour!

How depressing is that? (Fortunately my wife tells me I laugh in my sleep, then again I also scream in my sleep–– maybe I need a new pillow.)

Catch “Mad Men” and vow to yourself that you’ll have more fun (without drunk driving or sexual harassment). This is advertising, after all, and if we’re not having fun then who the hell is?

When your friends, neighbors and Aunt Sue who watch “Mad Men” ask you about advertising and the constant drinking, perpetual smoking and incessant sexcapades, nod your head knowingly and tell them it’s all true–– except we don’t wear hats these days. That would be absolutely mad.


"I wonder what Adam Smith would make of this..."

"I wonder what Adam Smith would make of this..."

What’s wrong with advertising these days? Advertising people. You grab a chair, I’ll grab a soapbox, let’s bitch this thing out.

I recently met with an art director with about eight years experience tugging down a small fortune in salary.

He took me through his book of nicely laminated ads and while he had some tasty things, well over half of what he was showing was fake ‘joy pop’ ads–– ads whose whole purpose was to snag awards.

The guy did these ads at big name agencies that actually spend a small fortune in time and salary costs to chase awards for chest thumping purposes. Imagine that, big time professional ad agencies playing make believe in hopes of winning some shiny trophies that prove to the world they are CREATIVE, dagnabbit!

Outrageous. Pathetic. Shameful.

Is it this guy’s fault he’s been showered with money for demonstrating his creativity for essentially phony ads? Hell no. He’s just playing the game. He’s a junkie, hooked on the goof of award shows and agencies that’ll drop their drawers to win them. He produces the work, snags some awards and steps up to the cashier’s window and another agency ups his ante.

But he’s not worth much to me–– certainly not his current high salary.

The beautiful thing about advertising is it’s a true free market. You’re worth whatever you can get. If someone else thinks this game of fakery is worth big geeters, they’ll pay it. But to me, if there’s any justice out there, this guy is headed to a healthy market adjustment to his salary. His stock will be downgraded until he can prove he can work with live ammo on real business problems. And when he can suffer through the rigamarole you sometimes encounter.

But then again, maybe not. Maybe he can just keep climbing the salary curve doing what he’s done.

I’ve seen it time and time again: creative people who play the game and are rewarded. People who have work whose sole purpose is to get the next job. Ads not for clients but for creatives.

And so it goes. Ours is one of the few professions where such a thing could exist. Lawyers don’t do this. Engineers don’t. Other professions wouldn’t dream of rewarding work that was basically make believe. But we do. Some of us do. Too damn many of us do.

Let’s be adult and professional and prove our worth on real assignments for paying clients. I’d much rather see rejected ideas for real client projects than phony ads created to cop an award. Be up front about it. This is a subjective business. If it was a real assignment for a real client and you had a terrific idea that the rest of the world ignored or rejected, show it, stand tall and make your case on the interview.

Don’t succumb to the fake ad game. Students have to do this, professionals shouldn’t.

With the game being played by alleged serious professionals, is it any wonder we have a hard time getting paying clients to trust us?

I’ll now dismount the soapbox. I have some real work to do.