Sunday, May 13, 2012

Will these TV shows hurt advertising?

         With the popularity of "Mad Men", it seems everybody is interested in advertising again. I'm constantly asked questions about ad agency life --- smoking, drinking, the treatment of women, and the games people play.

          Now there's a new TV show on AMC called "The Pitch". It's a reality show. Two agency finalists make their creative proposals for a big client.

           I find them both fun to watch. "Mad Men" for the behavior, "The Pitch" for the tension. Both hit a little too close to home. My questions are, how do these shows (and more to probably follow) affect the advertising business? Do they make us professionals look superficial and manipulative? Or the industrious, creative people most of us are? Will these shows attract bright people to advertising, or turn them off?

            I'm not sure. The only thing that comes close to a parallel is "Project Runway", which does seem to be interesting more young people in the fashion field.

            Right now, there seems to be a paradox in advertising. The recession hit hard, and yet in New York and Chicago, the good agencies are worried about the shortage of good creative people.

            The answer lies in what the applicant brings to the party. If it's the soap-opera drama of "Mad Men", you're at the wrong place at the wrong time. Advertising isn't like that. In fact, it never was.

             But if the thing that attracts you is the problem-solving nature of the business --- applying your creative skills against tough, constantly changing marketing problems --- you've got the potential for a rewarding future.

             I used to work for an ad agency president who loved to tell people that "a good ad doesn't care where it comes from".  That's just word-play. It's really a question of batting averages. Creative people are simply more likely to have idea after idea, day in and day out. It's a matter of talent, not a matter of being cute now and then.

             When I've watched "The Pitch", my stomach hurts. I've been there, done that, and know how much is at stake emotionally and how little can sway a client. You're tired, overwrought, and yet have to be at your best.

             My advice? Work hard, study up, and if you play your cards right, your stomach can hurt, too.

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