Wednesday, February 19, 2020

You better agree. ☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺


About one-hundred years ago I had an extremely close relationship with the man who was my boss. In those long-ago days of offices and doors, people used to hang out. You might have a question for a co-worker and find yourself spending 30 minutes or 45 in her office shooting the breeze.

Before Serfdom 2.0 became the modus operandi of every “modern” business, downtime used to be a part of business. 

The great film director (perhaps the greatest) Jean Renoir once said, “Loitering is the foundation of civilization.” If you’re working all the time, if you have no time to think, laugh, chit-chat, see a movie, look at reels, go to a museum (loiter) the chances are you’ll grow about as stale as the bread in the Ogilvy cafeteria.  

Jean Renoir, son of Auguste, has three movies on the BFI list of top 100 films of all time.

But back to my ex-boss. One day, he offhandedly asked me, “are you a first-born child?”

“No, I’m a middle child.”

“Good,” he said. “Children who aren’t first-born do better in advertising. Second children or third children are used to having to act up, to shout, to raise their hands to get noticed.”

Simplistic or not, that still makes sense to me. Non-first borns know, “attention must be paid.” In order to survive, they quickly learn how to get attention.

In advertising today, where ostensibly attention is the currency of our trade, attention is a bad word.

Some decades ago, David Ogilvy wrote, Our business needs massive transfusions of talent.  And talent, I believe, is most likely to be found among  non-conformists, dissenters and  rebels.”

Walk around an agency today and you’ll see 57% of all employees hiding behind expensive noise-canceling headphones. 32% of people will be in conference rooms texting on their phones while one or two people drone on guided by misbegotten powerpoint slides. The remaining 11% will be reading a 900-word single-spaced email enumerating client “tweaks” that must be done by four.

Or you might see a dozen people in a conference room “ideating” on a new campaign or, even, a social tile.

About a year ago I ran across an article in “The New York Times.” It was titled: Frustrated at Work? That Might Just Lead to Your Next Breakthrough”. And subtitled: “Don’t discount the misfits on your team.” 

I read the article and liked it. Agency “career discussions” were going on at that moment and I thought the article was valuable enough to share with some people who had the letter “C” in their title.

How fucking naïve of me.

I particularly liked this passage, and underscored it in the note I sent out.
In moments, I got back a note from one of the “Cs.”

“Thanks for this. It's a compelling read. While we currently don't look for misfits as we bring people on board, we do look for people who are highly collaborative agitators…”

Highly collaborative agitators.

And maybe that’s the issue with the world today. At least, the agency world.

We prize getting along more than getting noticed.
We value sameness more than difference.
We extol agreement over controversy.
We look for compliance not contrariness.

“Can't we all just get along” might be great for a family vacation. Its not great for a creative endeavor.

Different, irreverent, cynical, troublesome, moody, hard-to-work-with, disagreeable, argumentative gets hammered down like you’re in a game of whack-a-mole. Only played with nitroglycerin.

Toadyism, noddification, grinning, mindless agreement, sycophancy, those are the tickets to success.

Did you ever wonder why every commercial and ad looks alike? 

Did you ever wonder why virtually no agency is distinguishable from any other? 

Did you ever wonder why every meeting sounds like they’re all cut from the same giant fetid sausage? 
Does it ever seem to you that every meeting consists of the same nine words just constantly re-shuffled?

When was the last time you went to a meeting, even a small one—if your agency has small meetings anymore—where you didn’t hear any of these words?

We jabber on about cosmetic diversity.

But an equally dire lack of diversity revolves around the lack of independent ideas. That is, tautologically, real ideas. 

Diversity of thought is banned by Orwell’s ThinkPol, aka a Holding Company’s 360-review process. The ever-present Thought Police have a job. Root out and punish unapproved thoughts.

Get with the program.

Terence, this is stupid stuff.

Show up. Shut up. And bill time.

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