|Thanks to friend and partner, Sid Tomkins for making this beautiful.|
About 15 years ago I was leading creative for a giant bank and after six months and 397 rounds of creative, it was time to send storyboards out to directors.
We had a good budget and I was working for a good brand and I was working at a reputable agency. So we asked some of the biggest directors in the business to submit treatments.
Treatments remind me a bit of catching a glimpse of a Playboy magazine when you're just twelve or thirteen. You can't believe anything on god's green earth could be so lusciously perfect and so perfectly fake.
The stock photos in treatments ok'd by the directors are of Ansel Adams quality. The sunlight is just right. There's always an elk standing in the distance not noticing what's going on around him. And the talent is about 72-percent more perfect than talent has any right to be.
It's easy to be seduced by images like these. Whether you're a frothing thirteen-year-old or a similarly hetted-up 53 years old. All that beauty...for me.
The treatments came in from the usual suspects and it was hard not to gush. It was hard not to think of awards. It was hard not to get wrapped up in the fantasy of what was going on.
Then at the end of the day, I got a ping in my email box. A treatment from Joe Pytka.
It was like no other treatment I ever got because it had no gorgeous shots and no flowery language.
In fact, it was two single-spaced typewritten pages essentially of being berated by Pytka. I could feel him towering over me. I shook a bit. But not so he could see it.
I've looked all afternoon for the note--because I'm sure I've saved it. But it's probably on a computer I haven't turned on since before my arthritic shoulder turned arthritic.
But I remember the opening and I've been yelled at enough by Pytka to remember the feeling he created.
"I don't know," he began (and possibly the only time he ever used those three particular words) "when the industry started demanding a treatment from a director on how they would shoot something. We fell into this trap of using stock photographs to show how we would approach something differently. You can't begin with someone else's work to show how you would work."
Just found the actual email. My memory ain't half bad.
Fuck, I said to myself. He's right.
I think about that observation from Pytka today and I worry.
So much of the work I see--not just in commercials, but movies, TV shows, music and more--seems imitative of something else I've seen. In fact, if I were a historian I'd be inclined to write my history of these years or decades "The American Sequelization."
Nothing is considered valid unless it looks like something else.
As a person attuned to words, I am often dumbfounded by the shrinkerization of our language. In agencies more buzzwords are uttered and more jargon jargonated than non-buzzy words and non-jargon. Orwell created "Newspeak," his language with very few words. It reflected his belief that fewer words would lead to fewer thoughts.
Is there no way to describe internet speed other than "blazing fast"? Is there no way to describe a collective offering than a bundle? Is there no way to describe being different than to say zigging in a world of zags?
Some years ago, the women and men of Chiat\Day gave the entire world a two-word brief.
It seems the entire world has forgotten it.
Because I'm an asshole, I'll add to that, see art above. I'm not one-hundred percent sure what all this means.
But that doesn't mean I think it's wrong.
I remember in the early days of Macs at work there was a horrible whimsical typeface that had a self-consciously wacky "e" with dots and accents all around it. Around the same time people would emphasize a word or a logo with a "brush stroke" underscore. And I remember when everyone started using Microsoft's pallette of colors.
I called those examples, "the things everyone uses to be different."
Another reason, I suppose, that since I have found my voice, I have been so frequently fired.
But it's been worth it.
And I'm not stopping.