Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Academia and Adverdemia.

As the myriad dedicated readers of this space surely know, I am an inveterate reader. I typically read a book every week, or every two weeks if I am ensconced in some long history such as the role of the Mugwumps in 19th Century America, or some such.

One thing I've noticed through the years is that a gap has opened up between writers writing as academics and writers writing for a general audience. The work of academics has become increasingly obscure, obtuse, inscrutable and esoteric. They write on subjects that are increasingly minute and removed from our world. In short, they write pieces that display their scholarly virtuosity to other scholars but have little interest or impact on general readers.

The histories written by journalists are no less deep but are infinitely more accessible. Further they discuss grander themes (right now I am reading Pulitzer-winner Isabel Wilkerson's "The Warmth of Other Sons--the Epic Story of America's Great Migration." They are, and I'm generalizing now, writing about themes that affect our culture and society, not details that affect academic standing and tenure track.

I bring this back to advertising because I've been thinking of a comment made by Anonymous to a post I wrote a few days ago on my first job in advertising. Anonymous said, "first jobs in the business. yr experience seems unthinkable today when seated across the table from a Miami Ad school wannabe or Williamsburg dandy. Expectations. Mentoring. Learning one's craft. All have changed radically..."

What's happened is that the rise of ad schools mirrors the ascent of scholarly esotericism. We are creating ads about ads for people in advertising rather than ads that move product.

As my mentor pointed out to me a month ago, "At ____________________, we do ads that move presidents of companies and countries. Not presidents of award show juries."

Yet, the award mania continues. It's not what you do. It's how you impress. How you calculate how many angels can dance on the head of a lucite trophy.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Unfortunately this winning mentality seems to be everywhere. We have to win awards and we have to win business. What about keeping the business we have? Isn't that an award? What about good old fashioned organic growth from existing clients. Wouldn't that be the ultimate reward!
Instead, the mentality is that you keep a client/brand for about 3 years and then the agency will get fired. So win those awards and pitch away to keep the balls in the air.