Not that long ago, Tug and I were in L.A. finishing up some casting. There was a role that, from the time it was written, was a concern to me in terms of finding the right person to bring it to life (I am unfailingly particular about casting). Anyway, this guy came in and nailed the audition. Nailed it. I was really happy. We posted his audition on the internet (even overnight wasn't fast enough for us on this project) and within a few hours we had an enthusiastic thumbs up from our client. This left Tug and I with the better part of a perfect Southern California afternoon to blow. You can imagine that this put us in jovial moods.
As we walked toward the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Tug said, "You know, the bad days in advertising are really bad. But the good ones ... I think the good ones are better than most jobs."
I think he's right.
See, advertising can be a spiritually taxing business. Truly. Much of the world has math on its side. The numbers add up. Or they don't. There's no real debate. But advertising people enjoy no such luxury. Certainly there is some science involved in the creation of a motivating ad. But there is also a very healthy amount of alchemy. Try as they might, quantitative research people can't predict that "Where's the beef?" or "Whaaatsup?" is going to take the culture by storm. There is no Six Sigma process that results in a brilliant headline or a shockingly beautiful layout. Hell, for all their fancy words and equations, the quant folks can't guarantee that an ad will really work. Truly, they can only provide an indication that the direction is correct. Except sometimes, the direction isn't even remotely correct (to wit: "Where's the Beef?" tested for c-r-a-p).
This leaves the advertising professional in the middle of a strange road between business and art. A land of subjectivity where fierce opinions steathily prey on tender, young ideas. In this mind jungle, you find tireless souls who pour their heart into the creation and presentation of ideas that are hotly debated and, too often, killed with little remorse or logic. On these occasions, those with a true passion for good ideas are left drained, frustrated and, eventually, a prime candidate for early cardiac arrest (note: I believe this pain stretches well beyond the confines of the creative function). It's difficult when a concept is received poorly. You leave the meeting feeling like you failed your client, yourself and, worst of all, your baby idea. Now there's a saying that goes, "Nobody dies in advertising." This is technically true. However, when a deadline is looming and a good idea is nowhere in sight, one may often wish for death.
So, to the point, the bad days in advertising can really be pretty bad.
But then, there are the other days.
I've been at a national meeting for one of our clients all week.
Last night, I sat on top of an Arizona mountain watching the sun melt away with the Chairman of the Board of this esteemed client. We were there on business, but the conversation drifted toward life and family. When it was time for him to go, he looked me in the eye and expressed his thanks for all SHS has done for his company. This recognition was on top of very public pats-on-the-back from both the President and the Chief Marketing Officer of this same client. Pretty freakin' cool.
As I headed back to my hotel room, I couldn't help but feel like I was part of an effort that was really making a difference for this company. And, in turn, my company. And, in turn, all the families that both companies support. And, in turn, the greater good (hey, Makers Mark makes me philosphical).
Yes, as Tug said, the good days in advertising are really, really good.
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