In my voluminous and peripatetic readings, I ran across a sentence that has stuck with me literally for decades. I'm not exactly sure what the sentence was, but I do remember the gist.
It was this: "If you walk too long on concrete, you turn into an animal."
That led me down a path to Jean Renoir, perhaps the greatest film director ever, with I think four movies in the BAFTA top 100 movies. (If you're curious, send me a note. I'll send back a recommendation or two.)
Renoir, son of the painter Auguste Renoir (Auguste slept with Jean's nanny; later Jean slept with her, too) famously said, "Loitering is the source of all civilization."
Let me mix-master those things up together and get to the point of today's end-of-week-post.
In today's holding company hegemony, downtime, that is 'walking off of concrete,' or 'loitering,' is anathema to the regimens imposed by the holding companies--that is, financial entities with no real acumen in advertising, marketing or even humanity. So, in those holding-company-held agencies that have squoze out all inefficiencies, availability becomes a capability.
So if Henry and Danielle are free, they'll be assigned an assignment with an impending due date even if they know nothing about the topic or the brand. The same way if you worked in the meat department in a grocery store, you might be asked to help out selling tomatoes.
But in a grocery store, lack of knowledge doesn't really hurt customers. If you buy roma tomatoes and your wife wanted beefsteak, you're out $1.79 and maybe you'll get sent to the dog house.
In advertising, the stakes are higher. Million-dollar relationships can be compromised. And crappy work often shows up on the air.
Availability being a capability as a business practice, denying downtime is driving our industry further into darkness every day. Good work comes from knowing the brand, knowing the problems your viewers face, understanding the world and its complexities. I doubt someone who hadn't seen despair and poverty and lost dreams could have written "The Death of a Salesman." It takes deep knowledge to do real work.
So much of what I see is a mish-mash of cliches and recycled imagery.
I think because people don't work from a place of deep empathy. So we write spots that say "Kellogg's Nutri Grain guava breakfast bars are yummy." And then we all dance around a plasticene kitchen.
My favorite living writer is an historian--a two-time National Book Award winner and two-time Pulitzer-winner. His name is Robert Caro.
I've seen Caro speak twenty times. And in Caro's last book, "Working," he says a line that everyone in the agency business should have on their Macs. Every agency should have it painted on their walls--assuming they have any. It should be the cover page of every pitch presentation.
The sentence is this "Time Equals Truth."
I'm not going to explain what that sentence means to me. That's unimportant.
The question is, what does Time mean to you? To your agency? To your clients? To your work?
We need to stop thinking about advertising as a production line with interchangeable people at each station. We need to start thinking about advertising as thinking that gets people thinking.Then doing.
That takes time.
Because time equals truth.