Monday, July 26, 2021

Vulgarians through the gate.

Wise people know, or wise people who know me know, that anything they say or write to me at any time is grist for my blog. 

I've written in this space virtually every working day for 14 years and I don't have a "show-runner" to help me along with structure. I also don't have a content strategist, a writers' room or a media calendar to guide me.

I have something way more useful than any of those roles.

I have life.

Every-so-often, I get a comment on LinkedIn or from somewhere that says, "I really love your content." It's a compliment, I suppose, but one I don't really understand. Mostly because I don't understand the word content.

What I do is observe, write, comment, kibbitz about life. As old men like myself have been doing since our species--roughly speaking--came down from trees and started walking on our hind legs. If you asked me I would say, "I write something every day." Or "I write shit." I would never say, "I create content." After all, what am I filling up? What am I the contents of?

Last week, I got an IM from a friend of mine. I've known her off and on for almost 30 years, but mostly off. In all those years I believe we've had exactly one cup of coffee. 

We're like a lot of writers, I suppose, we're way more comfortable behind a keyboard than across a formica table. That's how we share thoughts, in any regard. It seems to be working, because somehow I feel--however tangentially--some connection to this young woman's soul.

I'll call her Beatrice, as a way of shielding internet sleuths who try to abrogate the anonymity I often strive for. Beatrice told me a story about a young person from the agency at which she works, who has decided to get another job and move on.

Here's what Beatrice sent to me. I'm quoting it here because she's a damned good writer--even extemporaneously--and I could much more easily worserize her words than betterize them:

"It's vulgar to talk of received compliments, but allow me to be vulgar for a second, to make a point - yesterday, one of the designers from what used to be the design group sent a note of resignation (the 40th of the week) to which I replied with wishes of good luck.  

"She wrote back saying things so kind that actually, I'd be a total asshole to repeat... but at the end, she said something like, 'I've watched you from afar and you're my inspiration and mentor.'  

It made me cry.  And made me realize how much not only knowing how to do your job, but also how to behave, matters - and is seen and felt.  I'm a writer - she has nothing to learn from me - and yet, to think I affected her was meaningful - and made me feel valued in an environment where such generosity is in short supply...This is testament to the fact that young people need to learn from older people who can see things other than what happens at festivals in the South of France."

                           Mr. Preston Sturges on Vulgarity.

For a few decades now, we've heard the catch-phrase, "It takes a village." In other words, raising people takes a complex interplay of diverse opinions, behaviors, life experiences, background and more. It takes a village never referred to that aforementioned village in France.

Meanwhile, in a concerted quest to secure their excessive mammon (think camels through the eyes of needles) the oligopoly that is obeisant only to their offshore tax-havens and their stockholders, have denuded the village. They've wiped out whole sectors for being "non-digital," or for "hearkening back to the 80s" whatever that means.

They've forgotten the key word in all of life, the word that brings peace and amity among people--in groups large and small and even individual. That is: perspective. 

In fact, from my perspective, they've chosen cosmetic diversity--how people look--over actual diversity of thought and opinion. Over experience, approach and point of view. They've decided cast diversity--because that's easy--rather than deciding to live it because that's hard.

My friend Beatrice brings something to an agency, brings something to a "social organism" (which is what an agency is) that is incalculable. It goes beyond writing with euphony. It goes beyond reading a brief. It goes beyond all those Hallmark insipidies that make up the current, fairly fascist assessment tools provided by what we now call human resources. [In fact, they're hardly human and have no resources.]

Say what you will about the 1939 movie "Gone with the Wind." You can't really overlook the rewriting of evil and the inherent racism it portrays. But if you look at art as a time machine to a different era--not an endorsement of that era--you'll find bits of the movie that can still tell us things we need to think about.

I choose this passage for one simple reason. Agency management (an oxymoron) has thrown own what made agencies work--with both hands. They're throwing out "villageness," real mentors for spurious wokeness that may work on paper, but not in real life. And they're reaching out for something that will never make them happy--an unending money-machine where garbage in gets you golden eggs out.

Prester John. Lookit up.

In their Prester John search for profit, cash flow and margins, they've destroyed their own brands, same-ized their differentiators, and are now in the late-stages of a race to the bottom. They're cheap, low-cost, money-grubbers who are no longer of any importance to the clients they no longer serve.

It used to be the rule of thumb in the agency world that an agency's assets took an elevator down and left the building every night. The industry has forgotten it is people that make the industry. Not proprietary interlocking spheres that claim to unravel a process to success. Not data science. Not borderless creativity. Not some plutocrat who's never written an ad.

It's Beatrice.


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