Monday, October 5, 2009
Philip Matyszak is an English historian who writes thoroughly readable histories of Rome and Greece that serve to remind us how nothing has really changed in the 2,000 to 3,000 years since Rome and Greece passed their heights. Matyszak has the unique knack of recreating not the lives of the rich and powerful but instead the everyday routines of the meek and humble.
I just read a joke he's recounted from 3,000 years ago in Greece. Unfortunately, it reminds me of the advertising industry today.
"Elithio Phoitete remarked that he was the unluckiest of men, for no sooner had he trained his donkey to live without food than the beast died suddenly."
In the ad industry today, the copywriters and the art directors are Phoitete's donkey. We are being starved by the corporate monoliths. Made to produce more work faster and given little sustenance for our labors. (No wonder we turn to faux awards to mitigate our malaise.) The CEO's, CFO's etc. think they are beating the system by squeezing the heart of any self-respecting agency. But they are starving the beast. No wonder so many agencies are withering on the vine.
Almost 50 years ago, Avis CEO Robert Townsend asked Bill Bernbach "I have 1/5th the money Hertz has to spend on advertising. How do I get advertising that's 5 times as effective from my agency." Bernbach replied with a list of rules, primary among those concerning work, "Approve, or disapprove but don't try to improve" was Bernbach's dicta. He said, "If you follow these rules, everyone in the agency will want to work nights and weekends on your business. And you will get great work."
I guess there was a time when agencies knew that their workers weren't donkeys.
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 10:03 AM