Thursday, March 11, 2010

Farms vs. Factories.

Farms run on universal time. The time of the solar system. Farms (I mean real farms, like the ones with "red barns and shit" to quote my 18-year-old daughter) require time. Seeds are planted and watered. Animals are cared for. It takes time and energy for nature to grow and nurture.

Factories, on the other hand, are human creations. And by massing enough humans together, melding them with machines and breaking down activity into its component parts, factories can achieve a super-human efficiency. Factories are about doing things fast. And cutting corners is ok if it leads to a corresponding increase in speed and efficiency.

Our economy, the world's economy, is a factory economy. We've even applied "factory-ness" to farming. We have all white-meat chickens with Dolly Parton-sized breasts, perfect tomatoes and a uniformity in food stuffs that is factory, not farm, borne.

What we've gained from factories is substantial--we have access to goods that in previous generations were the sole province of the wealthy. What we have lost, of course, is flavor.

In our quest for uniformity, long-lasting-ness and test-well-hood, we have reached the great middle.

Most agencies in the holding company era are factories. They are chosen by procurement departments. They outsource web development. They track employee usability and billability.

Years ago I had a boss who by many measures was extraordinarily lazy. We were on an account together that produced roughly an ad a week, 50 ads a year. He was 15 years senior to me but I produced probably 40 of those ads and he produced just 10. The agency had turned me into a factory worker, whereas my boss remained a farmer.

The 40 ads I produced were good. Good enough to get through the levels at the agency and be approved by my boss. 8 of the ads my boss wrote were good too. The difference was that 2 of his were great. One Show pencil great.

Clients and agencies make a choice everyday.

Factory or Farm.


Anonymous said...

I work for an assembly-line copywriting factory. Nouns, verbs and adverbs just keep coming down the line and I insert them into print ads and landing pages. Every day the same words come at me in different order and I have different ads to place them in. Nothing makes any sense. Reason is not a word I've seen come by here yet. Humor was fired, well, he deserved it. Farm living is the life for me. Land spreading out so far and wide. Keep Manhattan and give me that countryside.

Anonymous said...

Farm or factory? George, you forgot fishing. I'm fishing for ideas, and a new job.

geo said...

Both Anonymouses or Anonymice: I hear ya.