Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My sister and the advertising industry.

My sister died a year and a month ago, the result of being thrown from a too large Ducati motorcycle, having swerved to avoid hitting an errant pedestrian as he dashed across the breadth of 12th Avenue against the light. She was 47-years-old.

Last night I got an email from a high school friend of hers who had lost touch, done a google search and somehow contacted me. She asked me to write her a note about what happened.

I take exception with Henry David Thoreau who said that "most men lead lives of quiet desperation." I think Karl Marx, or Groucho were more on the mark. Desperation is too passive. As is quiet.

No, today we lead lives and careers filled with suppressed fear. Anger. Depression. Oppression. Our mortgages keep our lids on, our private school tuits keep us obedient. Our 62" flat screen keeps us flat-lined. This from "Something Happened," by ex-ad-man Joseph Heller:

"I get the willies when I see closed doors. Even at work, where I am doing so well now, the sight of a closed door is sometimes enough to make me dread that something horrible is happening behind it, something that is going to affect me adversely; if I am tired and dejected from a night of lies or booze or sex or just plain nerves and insomnia, I can almost smell the disaster mounting invisibly and flooding out towards me through the frosted glass panes. My hands may perspire, and my voice may come out strange. I wonder why. Something must have happened to me sometime."

This is how we live our lives. Oh, don't deny it. Even if it's not you, it's your client and, by application, you who lives in fear--fear of closed doors and open minds. Our imaginations duct-taped our sense of daring and revolution blanderized as we strive to optimize mediocrity. We quote focus groups and clients saying how happy they are, forgetting that focus groups and client feedback are the Stepin Fetchit's of the modern post-industrial era, "Yawsah, boss man, Ah sho' nuff agrees wiff you. Ah 'specks dat be a right good abvertizement. It sho' nuff do hit all der surport poin's." Beware the be-suited or be-t-shirted mofo who says, "it tested well. The client's happy." He is a virus in your agency's blood--infecting, deadening, metastasizing, destroying. Beware the marzipan glow of self-satisfied clients gloating. The Horst Wessel-lied is coming next, the client version thereof. The stormtroopers will get you if you don't watch out.

We worry about the dumbest things. We are enraptured by fear and loathing. Forgetting that so many of us are in the top 20% of the top 1% and we have nothing more to do than write about nine words a week or come up with one or two visual ideas. We forget that at the end of the corridor is death not a contact report. Be afraid of death if you must. But not life.

PS: That's Nancy in the middle of the photo.