Tuesday, August 1, 2023

"We're all So Nice. We're All So Happy."

Maybe part of the problem is that we're too nice.

Maybe the problem is that we're so nice we're no longer truthful.

We're too nice to each other.

We no longer tell the truth.

We're too nice to be criticial.

We're too nice to be honest.

And so, meh, becomes 'that's good.'

Meh becomes 'award-winning.'

Yuck becomes ACD or CD or ECD or CCO.

All because we're too nice.

HR is happy. 

Your mom is happy.

Your puffed-out chest is happy.

Everybody is happy. 

And a 2.4-percent raise every 18 months is forthcoming.

Your landlord is happy.

He can raise your rent 7.2-percent every 12 months.


You know who's not happy?

The people your work is actually for. 

The people you're meant to be working for.

The people reading your work. The people hearing your work. The people watching your work.

Just now I read the article above in "The Economist." The Economist in the scheme of modern "content consumption" is expensive. I think I spend $209/yr. on its subscription. But to be strictly cost-benefit analysis about this, I get way more than $209/yr. of value from reading it. If I proffer one Economist-derived-insight a year to a client, it's more than paid for itself. Plus, it's tax-deductible. It's almost like I'm a trillionaire who's rigged the system so I pay no tax.

The article starts this way: 

It is delicious to know that one reviewer called John Keats’s poetry “drivelling idiocy”. It is more pleasing yet that Virginia Woolf considered James Joyce’s writing to be “tosh”. And surely no one can be uncheered to hear that when the critic Dorothy Parker read “Winnie the Pooh” she found it so full of innocent, childish whimsy that she—in her own moment of whimsical spelling—“fwowed up.

And then continues. Substitute the word "ad or ads" for "books or book" below and you're getting to my point:

It is an open secret in the literary world that most books are very bad indeed. It is the job of critics to fillet them...  George Orwell, a veteran critic, knew that reviews should be brutal. He wrote, “In much more than nine cases out of ten the only objectively truthful criticism would be ‘This book is worthless...” 

Here's the crux of the whole affair: "What can be forgotten is that the real market for reviews is not the critic or the author. It is the reader. And they still want to know, says Mr Taylor, “whether they ought to spend £15.99 on a book.”  

That's who we've forgotten in our genteel kindness to our colleagues and our industry-wide embrace of spurious awardification of every effusion that blights our screens, our brains and our culture: The reader.

About one-hundred years ago, I worked at Ally & Gargano for the great Ed Butler. Part of Ed's job was to protect the viewer, the client, the agency and his ass. If Ed let something pass and it showed up on the air and it sucked, Ed would get his ass reamed by Tesch or Amil. That was no picnic.

I remember showing a raft of ads to Ed once.

His highest praise for that particular set of ads was, "They're flat as a plate of piss."

I can imagine what would happen today if a boss said that to someone. Doors would slam. HR complaints would be filed. Apologies would be pablumed. Probations would be wanked.

Back then, I almost cried.

On the way back to my office or my partner's I might have cursed. Or wept.

Then I sat down and did something better. Tried a little harder. Maybe stayed all night. And improved. And showed Ed something better the next day. Something that wasn't as flat as a plate of piss.

Steve Simpson used to say "be nice to people and hard on the work."

Not being hard on the work leads to work that insults people. Like so much work does today.

That's why the industry's built a pay-for-play award-industrial complex that gives every ad, or nearly so, a trophy.

Ed, that's flat as a plate of piss, isn't it?

The flat piss universe is where most work comes from.


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