Friday, May 24, 2013

Fuck Decks (I believe in creative work)

I went home relatively early last night. It was raining Katz and Schwartz and it's been a hellish week and it's just before a three-day weekend and I wanted to get the hell out of the sweatbox they call an office.

My partner and I had endured round seventeen (thanks, Rich) of the endless roadshow we must all now travel to sell a campaign. Even selling something slight these days takes literally dozens of meetings.

We are living, remember, in the "Participation Age." So there's always some nimrod whose contribution is salient to the point of having you put page numbers on the fucking presentation. Of course you need put page numbers because meetings don't happen nowadays without half the attendees not being there. They "attend" by phone. Which means everyday we are subject to about 45 minutes of hideous hold music and every meeting has to start with the obligatory "let's go around the room and say who's here."

If you have to be announced in my opinion, you're not really there. Your contribution should announce your attendance.

But, as usual, I digress.

Something we're not allowed to do anymore, though we're supposed to tell stories, we're meant to tell only "linear" stories, which are stories without elan, wit, humor and surprise.

But, as usual, I digress.

Last night was another one of those meetings where the people on the other end of the phone or the other side of the table can only say "no." It's like Flamenco dancing through a Soviet minefield. Boom!

We have two more of those "only no" meetings. Until we finally get to the meeting where someone can say "yes."

Along the way my partner and I have spent about 12 times the time making decks than in thinking about the campaign we are developing.

The work is unimportant.

What's important is that the "deck is almost there."

The work hasn't materially changed in a month.

But the deck! You should see it! It shines like that of the Pequod. We've been down on our hands and knees, stripped to the waist and gleaming with sweat like sea-men of yore, polishing that deck. Swabbing that deck. Putting that deck in fine fettle.

A deck's a deck for a' that.

We have, as an industry, forgotten that decks don't run on television. No deck has ever appeared in the upfront or on a billboard or in a banner ad. 

The deck is that which gets thrown out after the meeting, killing birch and willow and pine along the way. 

Years ago the great Tibor Kalman wrote “FUCK COMMITTEES (I believe in lunatics). If you haven't read it, or haven't read it in a while, it's below.

Let's update it for the Modern Ad Agency.

FUCK DECKS (I believe in creative work).

Tibor Kalman
(I believe in lunatics)
It’s about the struggle between individuals with jagged passion in their work and today’s faceless corporate committees, which claim to understand the needs of the mass audience, and are removing the idiosyncrasies, polishing the jags, creating a thought-free, passion-free, cultural mush that will not be hated nor loved by anyone. By now, virtually all media, architecture, product and graphic design have been freed from ideas, individual passion, and have been relegated to a role of corporate servitude, carrying out corporate strategies and increasing stock prices. Creative people are now working for the bottom line.
Magazine editors have lost their editorial independence, and work for committees of publishers (who work for committees of advertisers). TV scripts are vetted by producers, advertisers, lawyers, research specialists, layers and layers of paid executives who determine whether the scripts are dumb enough to amuse what they call the ‘lowest common denominator’. Film studios out films in front of focus groups to determine whether an ending will please target audiences. All cars look the same. Architectural decisions are made by accountants. Ads are stupid. Theater is dead.
Corporations have become the sole arbiters of cultural ideas and taste in America. Our culture is corporate culture.Culture used to be the opposite of commerce, not a fast track to ‘content’- derived riches. Not so long ago captains of industry (no angels in the way they acquired wealth) thought that part of their responsibility was to use their millions to support culture. Carnegie built libraries, Rockefeller built art museums, Ford created his global foundation. What do we now get from our billionaires? Gates? Or Eisner? Or Redstone? Sales pitches. Junk mail. Meanwhile, creative people have their work reduced to ‘content’ or ‘intellectual property’. Magazines and films become ‘delivery systems’ for product messages.
But to be fair, the above is only 99 percent true.
I offer a modest solution: Find the cracks in the wall. There are a very few lunatic entrepreneurs who will understand that culture and design are not about fatter wallets, but about creating a future. They will understand that wealth is means, not an end. Under other circumstances they may have turned out to be like you, creative lunatics. Believe me, they’re there and when you find them, treat them well and use their money to change the world.
Tibor Kalman
New York
June 1998


Rich Siegel said...

I feel your pain, George.

But I do miss the spamming comments and I am sad you discovered the comment moderator.

dorene said...

Sounds exactly like what my boss Paul Warner would say. We are privileged to be able to pull the purse strings of some of the wealthiest brands, ad men are. We might as well use their money to do some good; to change people's lives Paul will say.
His mouth does write some hefty puritan cheques, it does. His ass you muse, does it ever cash the cheques, you ask?
See some case studies here