The advertising business is a scam.
Linds Redding has done quite the tour of the industry as a creative. Now with inoperable cancer he’s bowed out of the game at the age of 51 and written a plain and cynical grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-shake-you-out-of-it article about the perspective he’s gained on working in advertising.
I absolutely love it. There is no better account out there about how I feel about what I was doing.
Is he just a creative dinosaur pissing and moaning about how the digital age and the economy have affected the business?
I’ll bet most ad people get where he’s coming from. Most take it as the nature of the business and get on with it. Even better, there are those who manage to keep this perspective and stay in it and enjoy it. But the rest of us, when the business encourages us to chronically lose sight of our priorities, see less of our kids growing up, postpone vacations, cancel on friends, get cranky with our partners, and run ourselves sick so we get enough clever scripts about chewing gum in front of client before the end of the week, well, there’s no statuette or dollar figure that’ll make that kind of unpaid overtime worth it in the end.
Maybe I’m biased and was destined to turn on my own career. Once, as a toddler, I was left at daycare until it got dark because my account director mom had to stay back and run a research group about Canesten. But I digress.
Every job has people that bitch about it. This is different.
Linds explains it so truthfully and wittily — especially for an art director! – that I’d love to quote the whole thing.
Aside from how he explains how creative people let themselves get conned into the business, this bit in particular stands out when Linds asks himself how he stuck it out:
“I mostly hid my insecurity and fear from everyone but those closest to me, and ran fast enough that I would never be found out. The other thing I did, I now discover, was to convince myself that there was nothing else, absolutely nothing, I would rather be doing. That I had found my true calling in life, and that I was unbelievably lucky to be getting paid – most of the time – for something that I was passionate about, and would probably be doing in some form or other anyway.
It turns out that my training and experience had equipped me perfectly for this epic act of self-deceit. This was my gig. My schtick. Constructing a compelling and convincing argument to buy, from the thinnest of evidence was what we did. “Don’t sell the sausage. Sell the sizzle” as we were taught at ad school.
Countless late nights and weekends, holidays, birthdays, school recitals and anniversary dinners were willingly sacrificed at the altar of some intangible but infinitely worthy higher cause. It would all be worth it in the long run…
This was the con. Convincing myself that there was nowhere I’d rather be was just a coping mechanism. I can see that now. It wasn’t really important. Or of any consequence at all really. How could it be. We were just shifting product. Our product, and the clients. Just meeting the quota. Feeding the beast as I called it on my more cynical days.
So was it worth it?
Well of course not. It turns out it was just advertising. There was no higher calling.”
Read the whole article!
Also, check out Linds’ blog as he battles cancer.