Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The under/over.

The other day a friend whom I respect wrote to me about a mutual acquaintance. “He’s very talented,” my friend wrote, “but I think he’s being underutilized where he is.”

At the risk of damning an industry that has provided well for me and my family, I can think of few people in our business who aren’t underutilized. Quite often advertising attracts very bright and very creative people and then assigns them very dull and mindlessly meaningless tasks.

“Re-write the sentence without using the word ‘titwillow.’” I’ve been told recently. “That’s a word our competitors own.”

“Ok,” I answer in my most obliging tones, “I’ll say ‘titmouse.’”

“No,” they say, slapping my hand with a metaphorical ruler. “They own the word ‘titmouse,’ too.”

"Lake Titicaca," I inquire, thinking of catching the next plane there.

"I'd stay away from that altogether."

These are the sorts of things we have to deal with every day.

If I, ever so gently ask, “Why don’t you share a list with me of all the words owned by competitors?” Well, then I will be marked “hard to work with,” the gravest of sins possible in our HRocracy.
We are all underutilized because, I think, there’s so much over-think and over-scrutiny everywhere. Instead of actually creating things we spend our days and nights scratching at a million gnat bites of pre-guessing, second-guessing and post-guessing.

Our “talk” to “do” ratio is about 30:1. Our “revise” to “create” ratio is similar.

Not every place, thankfully, is like this. In fact, I’m dividing my time between two places that leave me relatively free to do what I think is good. 

For that I thank the advertising gods who, since I lost my job six months ago, have not yet abandoned me.

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