Tuesday, October 6, 2020

An offer the Holding Companies will all refuse. (A study in Myopia.)

One day, when I was still at Ogilvy I took a walk around the creative floor. The footprint was big, from 46th to 47, and halfway from 11th Avenue to 10th. 

When I was stuck on something or just needed a walk or felt like a chat or a kibbitz, I'd push myself away from my table and put a couple of hundred yards on my Apple Watch.

As I was walking around and looking at the young faces hiding behind their stickered Macs, canceling noise with their expensive headphones, I realized something.

My guess was one-third of the creative staff had fewer than three years' experience. I had had some time with many of those people, and I had had my frustrations. It wasn't that they hadn't talent, it was that to my demanding sinew they weren't quite ready to step up and help in materially important ways on big assignments. 

I ran back to my desk and I started scribbling. Ogilvy had always praised itself as the industry's teaching hospital. Here were dozens of people who needed teaching and a guy with a literal lifetime in the business willing to teach them.

First, I penciled a headline. "From Ad School to Advertising: A 12-Week Curriculum." Then I planned out my weeks. I contacted friends with different skills. Joe in Production would talk about how to look at reels. Mike, an art director, would talk about type. Rich, another art director would talk about how he looks at concepts 50 ways to Sunday. Elizabeth, an art buyer might talk about illustration and photography. I might even ask Kerry Feuerman to teach a course on selling ideas. And a planner or two on how to write a brief and question a brief.

I even did some math. I figured if there were 30 creatives a year who were worth 1X who took the class, their aggregate worth would be 30X. If my curriculum could get them to be worth 1.5X, I would have added 15X of value to the agency's workforce.

What's more, my effort would help make Ogilvy a premier destination for the best students with the best books coming out of the ad schools.

I figured I could do all that spending between ten and fifteen hours a week on the project. Between 25% and 37.5% of my billable hours.

I went to the agency world's greatest oxymoron--Creative Management. They gave me a look Whiskey my golden retriever gives me when I'm sitting at the table eating and she wants some. She locks into my eyes. Then closes hers for a second or two longer than a blink. Then stares at me again. As if to say, "are you serious?"

I said I was.

"You can add it onto your job," they said to me, their pockets already bulging with my surfeit of billable hours, but we can't allow you to do anything that's not billable. Finance doesn't allow it. (My guess is I billed more hours to clients in a month than finance does in a decade.)

I walked away disconsolate.

In addition to a not inconsiderable amount of freelance, of hunting for freelance, of working with luminous friends, I am teaching advertising again.

The other evening I said to my class, after they demonstrated some lacuna in their knowledge of advertising, "how many people here have heard of Doyle Dane Bernbach?"

One out of 12 raised their hand, and I'm not sure that she didn't think DDB was a banned 1960s pesticide.

I said, "I'd betcha LeBron James knows who Michael Jordan is. I'd bet Spielberg knows Welles. I know Melville knew King James."

Prior to my next class I pulled together a 366-page document on the origins and the foundational work of Doyle Dane. From Mr Bernbach himself up through Gary Goldsmith. (Thanks to Dave Dye for his remarkable international treasure: Stuff from the Loft @ davedye.com)

I will present it to my class this week. I've allotted twenty minutes to it. The real advertising pros will find the time to study it. Twenty minutes is enough to whet their appetites--if they're serious.

I can't believe Omnicom, WPP, Publicis, Interpublic, Havas, MDC and whatever other holding company I'm leaving off my cursory list has no interest in the knowledge above my shoulders that will die along with me.

That's fine.

Who wants anything that harks back to the 80s? 

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