Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Great Repression.

Though GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company is essentially a one-person operation, I do have an Account Director who makes a big difference in my life and in my business.

I'm not going to give any personal personnel details here, but an email exchange she and I had late last night is what got me thinking. Thinking not just about my personal situation, but about the macro variables that can help lead to success.

I had written a note to, I'll call her "H," in which I explained my semi-paralysis surrounding a lot of copy I have to write for a complicated brand. They had hired a branding agency to create their look and now had turned to me to create the word part of their story.

In work and in life, we hear voices. 

We read semiotics.

We pick up cues on how we're supposed to behave in a given situation. 

This happens--too often--within the decaying Chinese drywall that encloses the occupants of the advertising industry. When you're incarcerated in such a situation, you quickly discern how you're supposed to act, when you're supposed to speak, who you're meant to defer to. Most social organizations in a sense are self-suppression entities. You conform to them rather than they open up to you.

The writing I have to do is for a very stiff company in a very rigid field of endeavor. You don't hear stand-up comedians doing routines, for instance, based on Collateralized Debt Obligations. There are a lot of companies where humanity and humor (a linchpin of humanity) fear to tread. If I had a dollar for every icy glare I got because I was a wise-ass inside a stiff-ocracy, I'd have enough money now to lay off 10,000 people and not feel guilt.

With all that constraint spinning about me, I was feeling paralyzed--an ad absurdum effect of constraint.

But, I said to myself, the design is avant. The writing should be just as non-cliched and forward-looking. 

But, as I said, I was hearing voices.

Don't. Can't. I wouldn't. They could get pissed. That's not them. You'll get fired. You won't get paid. They'll hate it and force you back.

I shoved them all aside like a husband of 39 years shoves aside the imperative to change a lightbulb in a too-high ceiling. 

And I wrote five bits of copy out of a total of about 10 or 12.

I sent them to my Account Director with a short note explaining my trauma.

In minutes here's what I got back.

"Ok - I get it. YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB WITH THIS. I love how you are speaking. They hired you to be you. Don't be them. The tone of voice is much better than the way they wrote it. Stick with that. You are cutting through the BS, and I like that."

In truth, this is a little thing. 

And I might have gotten there by myself without any help.

But my point remains. Advertising agencies, holding companies, today's greater capitalist system is a self-abnegating construct. We are meant to look, act, and accept like everyone else. As someone said to me when I joined Ogilvy the first time back in 1999, "Don't do anything too good or too bad and you'll be fine. They'll leave you alone."

That might be overly-dramatic for comic effect. But the best work comes from people who have selves and aren't afraid to show themselves. Their ideas, their insouciance, their sparks, their weird connections.

When people use the words culture, inclusion and diversity in business today, I don't ever really know what they mean. It usually gets reduced to stale bagels on Fridays and a ping-pong table near the elevators.

It seldom comes down to being human. 

Being silly.

Being contrary.

Being yourself.

Thanks, H, for the kick and the reminder.

Whatever I pay you, you should ask for double.

I won't give it to you; but you should ask.

You're worth it. 

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