A Short Lesson in Perspective

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Many years ago, when I first started to work in the advertising industry, we used to have this thing called The Overnight Test. It worked like this: My creative partner Laurence and I would spend the day covering A2 sheets torn from layout pads with ideas for whatever project we were currently engaged upon – an ad for a new gas oven, tennis racket or whatever. Scribbled headlines. Bad puns. Stick-men drawings crudely rendered in fat black Magic Marker. It was a kind of brain dump I suppose. Everything that tumbled out of our heads and mouths was committed to paper. Anything completely ridiculous, irrelevant or otherwise unworkable was filtered out as we worked, and by beer ‘o’ clock there would be an impressive avalanche of screwed-up paper filling the corner of the room where our comically undersized waste-bin resided.

On a productive day, aside from the mountain of dead trees (recycling hadn’t been invented in 1982), stacked polystyrene coffee cups and an overflowing ash-tray, there would also be a satisfying thick sheaf of “concepts.” Some almost fully formed and self-contained ideas. Others misshapen and graceless fragments, but harbouring perhaps the glimmer of a smile or a grain of human truth which had won it’s temporary reprieve from the reject pile. Before trotting off to Clarks Bar to blow the froth of a pint of Eighty-Bob, our last task was to pin everything up on the walls of our office.

Hangovers not withstanding, the next morning at the crack of ten ‘o’ clock we’d reconvene in our work-room and sit quietly surveying the fruits of our labour. Usually about a third of the ‘ideas’ came down straight away, before anyone else wandered past. It’s remarkable how something that seems either arse-breakingly funny, or cosmically profound in the white heat of it’s inception, can mean absolutely nothing in the cold light of morning. By mid-morning coffee, the creative department was coming back to life, and we participated in the daily ritual of wandering around the airy Georgian splendour of our Edinburgh offices and critiquing each teams crumpled creations. It wasn’t brutal or destructive. Creative people are on the whole fragile beings, and letting each other down gently and quietly was the unwritten rule. Sometimes just a blank look or a scratched head was enough to see a candidate quietly pulled down and consigned to the bin. Something considered particularly “strong,” witty or clever would elicit cries of “Hey, come and see what the boys have come up with!” Our compadres would pile into our cramped room to offer praise or constructive criticism. That was always a good feeling.

This human powered bullshit filter was a handy and powerful tool. Inexpensive, and practically foolproof. Not much slipped through the net. I’m quite sure architects, musicians, mathematicians and cake decorators all have an equivalent time-honed protocol.

But here’s the thing.

The Overnight Test only works if you can afford to wait overnight. To sleep on it. Time moved on, and during the nineties technology overran, and transformed the creative industry like it did most others. Exciting new tools. Endless new possibilities. Pressing new deadlines. With the new digital tools at our disposal we could romp over the creative landscape at full tilt. Have an idea, execute it and deliver it in a matter of a few short hours. Or at least a long night. At first it was a great luxury. We could cover so much more ground. Explore all the angles. And having exhausted all the available possibilities, craft a solution we could have complete faith in.

Or as the bean counters upstairs quickly realized, we could just do three times as many jobs in the same amount of time, and make them three times as much money. For the same reason that Jumbo Jets don’t have the grand pianos and palm-court cocktail bars we were originally promised in the brochures, the accountants naturally won the day.

Pretty soon, The Overnight Test became the Over Lunch Test. Then before we knew it, we were eating Pot-Noodles at our desks, and taking it in turns to go home and see our kids before they went to bed. As fast as we could pin an idea on the wall, some red-faced account manager in a bad suit would run away with it. Where we used to rely on taking a break and “stretching the eyes’ to allow us to see the wood from the trees (too many idioms and similes? Probably.) We now fell back on experience and gut-feel. It worked most of the time, but nobody is infallible. Some howlers and growlers definitely made it through, and generally standards plummeted.

The other consequence, with the benefit of hindsight, is that we became more conservative. Less likely to take creative risks and rely on the tried and trusted. The familiar is always going to research better than the truly novel. An research was the new god. The trick to being truly creative, I’ve always maintained, is to be completely unselfconscious. To resist the urge to self-censor. To not-give-a-shit what anybody thinks. That’s why children are so good at it. And why people with Volkswagens, and mortgages, Personal Equity Plans and matching Lois Vutton luggage are not.

It takes a certain amount of courage, thinking out loud. And is best done in a safe and nurturing environment. Creative Departments and design studios used to be such places, where you could say and do just about anything creatively speaking, without fear of ridicule or judgement. It has to be this way, or you will just close up like a clamshell. It’s like trying to have sex, with your mum listening outside the bedroom door. Can’t be done. Then some bright spark had the idea of setting everyone up in competition. It became a contest. A race. Winner gets to keep his job.

Now of course we are all suffering from the same affliction. Our technology whizzes along at the velocity of a speeding electron, and our poor overtaxed neurons struggle to keep up. Everything has become a split-second decision. Find something you like. Share it. Have a half-baked thought. Tweet it. Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. Seize the moment. Keep up. There will be plenty of time to repent later. Oh, and just to cover your ass, don’t forget to stick a smiley on the end just in case you’ve overstepped the mark.

So. To recap, The Overnight Test is a good thing. And sadly missed. A weekend is even better, and as they fell by the wayside, they were missed too. “If you don’t come in on Saturday, don’t bother turning up on Sunday!” as the old advertising joke goes.

A week would be nice. A month would be an unreasonable luxury. I’ve now ‘enjoyed’ the better part of six months of enforced detachment from my old reality. When your used to turning on a sixpence, shooting from the hip, dancing on a pin-head (too many again?), the view back down from six months is quite giddying. And sobering.

My old life looks, and feels, very different from the outside.

And here’s the thing.

It turns out I didn’t actually like my old life nearly as much as I thought I did. I know this now because I occasionally catch up with my old colleagues and work-mates. They fall over each other to enthusiastically show me the latest project they’re working on. Ask my opinion. Proudly show off their technical prowess (which is not inconsiderable.) I find myself glazing over but politely listen as they brag about who’s had the least sleep and the most takaway food. “I haven’t seen my wife since January, I can’t feel my legs any more and I think I have scurvy but another three weeks and we’ll be done. It’s got to be done by then The client’s going on holiday. What do I think?”

What do I think?

I think you’re all fucking mad. Deranged. So disengaged from reality it’s not even funny. It’s a fucking TV commercial. Nobody give a shit.

This has come as quite a shock I can tell you. I think, I’ve come to the conclusion that the whole thing was a bit of a con. A scam. An elaborate hoax.

The scam works like this:

1. The creative industry operates largely by holding ‘creative’ people ransom to their own self-image, precarious sense of self-worth, and fragile – if occasionally out of control ego. We tend to set ourselves impossibly high standards, and are invariably our own toughest critics. Satisfying our own lofty demands is usually a lot harder than appeasing any client, who in my experience tend to have disappointingly low expectations. Most artists and designers I know would rather work all night than turn in a sub-standard job. It is a universal truth that all artists think they a frauds and charlatans, and live in constant fear of being exposed. We believe by working harder than anyone else we can evaded detection. The bean-counters rumbled this centuries ago and have been profitably exploiting this weakness ever since. You don’t have to drive creative folk like most workers. They drive themselves. Just wind ‘em up and let ‘em go.

2. Truly creative people tend not to be motivated by money. That’s why so few of us have any. The riches we crave are acknowledgment and appreciation of the ideas that we have and the things that we make. A simple but sincere “That’s quite good.” from someone who’s opinion we respect (usually a fellow artisan) is worth infinitely more than any pay-rise or bonus. Again, our industry masters cleverly exploit this insecurity and vanity by offering glamorous but worthless trinkets and elaborately staged award schemes to keep the artists focused and motivated. Like so many demented magpies we flock around the shiny things and would peck each others eyes out to have more than anyone else. Handing out the odd gold statuette is a whole lot cheaper than dishing out stock certificates or board seats.

3. The compulsion to create is unstoppable. It’s a need that has to be filled. I’ve barely ‘worked’ in any meaningful way for half a year, but every day I find myself driven to ‘make’ something. Take photographs. Draw. Write. Make bad music. It’s just an itch than needs to be scratched. Apart from the occasional severed ear or descent into fecal-eating dementia the creative impulse is mostly little more than a quaint eccentricity. But introduce this mostly benign neurosis into a commercial context.. well that way, my friends lies misery and madness.

This hybridisation of the arts and business is nothing new of course – it’s been going on for centuries – but they have always been uncomfortable bed-fellows. But even artists have to eat, and the fuel of commerce and industry is innovation and novelty. Hey! Let’s trade. “Will work for food!” as the street-beggars sign says.

This Faustian pact has been the undoing of many great artists, many more journeymen and more than a few of my good friends. Add to this volatile mixture the powerful accelerant of emerging digital technology and all hell breaks loose. What I have witnessed happening in the last twenty years is the aesthetic equivalent of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. The wholesale industrialization and mechanistation of the creative process. Our ad agencies, design groups, film and music studios have gone from being cottage industries and guilds of craftsmen and women, essentially unchanged from the middle-ages, to dark sattanic mills of mass production. Ideas themselves have become just another disposable commodity to be supplied to order by the lowest bidder. As soon as they figure out a way of outsourcing thinking to China they won’t think twice. Believe me.

So where does that leave the artists and artisans? Well, up a watercolour of shit creek without a painbrush. That one thing that we prize and value above all else – the idea - turns out to be just another plastic gizmo or widget to be touted and traded. And to add insult to injury we now have to create them not in our own tine, but according to the quota and the production schedule. “We need six concepts to show the client first thing in the morning, he’s going on holiday. Don’t waste too much time on them though, it’s only meeting-fodder. He’s only paying for one so they don’t all have to be good, just knock something up. You know the drill. Oh, and one more thing. His favourite color is green. Rightho! See you in the morning then… I’m off to the Groucho Club.”

Have you ever tried to have an idea. Any idea at all, with a gun to your head? This is the daily reality for the creative drone. And when he’s done, sometime in the wee small hours, he then has to face his two harshest critics. Himself, and everyone else. “Ah. Sorry. Client couldn’t make the meeting. I faxed your layouts to him at his squash club. He quite liked the green one. Apart from the typeface, the words, the picture and the idea. Oh, and could the logo be bigger? Hope it wasn’t a late night. Thank god for computers eh? Rightho! I’m off to lunch.”

Alright, it’s not bomb disposal. But in it’s own way it’s dangerous and demanding work. And as I’ve said, the rewards tend to be vanishingly small. Plastic gold statuette anyone? I’ve seen quite a few creative drones fall by the wayside over the years. Booze mostly. Drugs occasionally. Anxiety. Stress. Broken marriages. Lots of those. Even a couple of suicides. But mostly just people temperamentally and emotionally ill-equipped for such a hostile and toxic environment. Curiously, there never seems to be any shortage of eager young worker drones queuing up to try their luck, although I detect that even their bright-eyed enthusiasm is staring to wane. Advertising was the sexy place to be in the eighties. The zeitgeist has move on. And so have most of the bright-young-things.

So how did I survive for thirty years? Well it was a close shave. Very close. And while on the inside I am indeed a ‘delicate flower’ as some Creative Director once wryly observed, I have enjoyed until recently, the outward physical constitution and rude heath of an ox. I mostly hid my insecurity and fear from everyone but those closest to me, and ran fast enough that I would never be found out. The other thing I did, I now discover, was to convince myself that there was nothing else, absolutely nothing, I would rather be doing. That I had found my true calling in life, and that I was unbelievably lucky to be getting paid – most of the time – for something that I was passionate about, and would probably be doing in some form or other anyway.

It turns out that my training and experience had equipped me perfectly for this epic act of self-deceit. This was my gig. My schtick. Constructing a compelling and convincing argument to buy, from the thinnest of evidence was what we did. “Don’t sell the sausage. Sell the sizzle” as we were taught at ad school.

Countless late nights and weekends, holidays, birthdays, school recitals and anniversary dinners were willingly sacrificed at the altar of some intangible but infinitely worthy higher cause. It would all be worth it in the long run…

This was the con. Convincing myself that there was nowhere I’d rather be was just a coping mechanism. I can see that now. It was’nt really important. Or of any consequence at all really. How could it be. We were just shifting product. Our product, and the clients. Just meeting the quota. Feeding the beast as I called it on my more cynical days.

So was it worth it?

Well of course not. It turns out it was just advertising. There was no higher calling. No ultimate prize. Just a lot of faded, yellowing newsprint, and old video cassettes in an obsolete format I can’t even play any more even if I was interested. Oh yes, and a lot of framed certificates and little gold statuettes. A shit-load of empty Prozac boxes, wine bottles, a lot of grey hair and a tumor of indeterminate dimensions.

It sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself again. I’m not. It was fun for quite a lot of the time. I was pretty good at it. I met a lot of funny, talented and clever people, got to become an overnight expert in everything from shower-heads to sheep-dip, got to scratch my creative itch on a daily basis, and earned enough money to raise the family which I love, and even see them occasionally.

But what I didn’t do, with the benefit of perspective, is anything of any lasting importance. At least creatively speaking. Economically I probably helped shift some merchandise. Enhanced a few companies bottom lines. Helped make one or two wealthy men a bit wealthier than they already were.

As a life, it all seemed like such a good idea at the time.

But I’m not really sure it passes The Overnight Test.

Pity.

Oh. And if your reading this while sitting in some darkened studio or edit suite agonizing over whether housewife A should pick up the soap powder with her left hand or her right, do yourself a favour. Power down. Lock up and go home and kiss your wife and kids.

--------------------

British born, Linds graduated with a degree in Graphic Design, and launched straight into a career in advertising having been told by a fellow student it was a guaranteed way of getting fabulously wealthy very young. Twenty five years later, he hunted down the person responsible and killed him with a baseball bat and buried the body in the woods.

Linds worked as an Art Director for several agencies in London and Edinburgh, before emigrating to New Zealand with his family in the mid nineties. He worked for most of NZ's top creative agencies, Saatchi, DDB, Colenso and The Campaign Palace before leaving agency life at the millennium to pursue his interests in Motion Graphics and animation. For the past ten years, Linds has run a successful animation studio designing and producing TVC's for tne New Zealand advertising industry.

In late 2011, at 51 Linds was diagnosed with inoperable Eosophigal Cancer. He has since given up work and spends his time at home on Waiheke Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf walking, writing, drawing and making music. He blogs on the tricky business of living and dying at www.lindsredding.com

Comments

Wow. That's pretty heavy. Thank you to Linds for sharing.

This should be required reading for everyone in the industry.

Piercing insight on what motivates creative people in this business, and a well-needed reminder about what's important in life. Thanks Linds.

Yes I agree completely.

That's ma boy.
Linds 12/10

This was a great read. I couldn't agree more. I once was the guy he described. I'm a little embarrassed. I thought what I was doing was important. Luckily, I saw the light

"But what I didn’t do . . . is anything of any lasting importance"

Yes you did Linds, this article is so well written and perceptive, it will have lasting influence.

I'm with Jules.

You raised enough money to raise your kids. And they will know you.

As opposed to the raising of your own Mona Lisa; a child for the world to know.

Brilliant read. Brilliant perspective. Creative and clients, Marketeers, Execs and CEOs should read this. As an industry we sell chips to fat people, and beer to alcholics. We dont save lives. But we should try and use what we learn to do something meaningful in our spare time.

Thank you for verbalizing some thoughts that have been running around my head as of late. Very well put.

I enjoyed that immensely. Going home and powering off.

Thanks so much for this sobering reminder of what is--and isn't--important. Best of luck to you.

Perceptive. Clever. Unforgettable. Applicable to people of all fields who regret not spending enough time with family and those we love. This should be required reading for those just beginning their careers
.....but would they really get it early on?

Brilliant. Thanks for your blistering honesty - and humor.

This should be required reading for everyone in the creative industry. I've never before heard a voice on the subject I so comprehensively agree with.

Thank you. I can see me linking to and quoting from this often.

an STILL you add the must have 3 boxes in the bottom to advertise yourself.

hypocrite

This is the best advice I've ever received. I didn't realize what a pawn I've been. My father, and art mentor, once smashed a design award he had won, and I never understood why - until now. "You're good enough to be given this shiny trinket, but not good enough to be properly compensated where it matters. Thank you, and fuck you very much."

I love making things, and I understand that itch. But you are right, it is just advertising, nothing important is being done, they deserve what they pay for and no more. I thought sacrificing my relationships would be well worth it in "the end" - but what is the end? Death?

No. Life is more valuable than pouring my soul into a magazine spread that's selling soap, funny thing is, everyone is trying to fool themselves and each other into believing that it is somehow significant, and I believed them and myself, but my grey hair, anxious ticks, and anxiety laden nightmares scream the exact opposite. Thank you for being so honest, it is refreshing, it has opened my eyes.

Ditto. P.S. I quit!

Wow, unbelievable account. It is sometimes difficult to see the woods for the trees in the creative world. I guess as a freelancer you can perhaps think about charging sufficiently for the products you produce for. At least that way you're compensated correctly for the timesink products and things you make.

I just set up a semi-annual reminder to read this. I recommend you do the same.

I agree wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, without advertising, the world would cease to exist.

The apparent 'life and death' situations we face daily in this business are nothing more than flotsam washed ashore on wave after wave. In many ways this business sucks. And it sucks it out of you. You can make a good living and you can enjoy yourself while doing it. But I WORK TO LIVE and nothing more. http://gedstankus.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/why-i-love-hate-love-this-bus...

This piece is beautifully-written truth.

My career in advertising (Creative) spanned some 32 years and I lived this story. While working in the biz, I worked very hard and was well-rewarded financially. But, looking back, I missed too many of my wife's touches and my children's formative years. Also, I found that I didn't miss it at all after I retired early. These days, a lot of the product that I see is so poor that I'm embarrassed by it.

Thank you.

What a jarring read and richly imbued with truth upon sad truth. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Clearly it is a relevant topic given the response you've got.

Insights and observations beautifully noted and sadly true. Thanks for the the time, well worth the read.

Tania

Brilliant.
Not an idea out of place or a word gone awry.
You can't retain your sanity without remembering, always, that "it's only advertising". (Just never tell the client).

I did my twenty and out, made lots of moola, awards, divorce, fab hotels, jets, vacations, the whole bit, but I never took it seriously in terms of my creativity and that was my undoing (and salvation) in the end. The new generation of folks see the adworld as valid creative expression and who is to doubt them? It's not only ads that have a one and done disposability these days.Cut and paste creativity is endemic to music, TV, art, books, journalism. The glorious internet itself has created a vast 99 cent world. Some wunderkind will no doubt eventually show up and lead us to the new promised land of virtual creativity, but it's looking more and more like an infinite bog of mediocrity.

Brilliant.

As others have shared, you have captured sentiments felt for a long time. Thank you for being the voice for many.

This is a read for ALL creative hearts and souls, heck a read for everyone as it's about the value of LIFE and Creativity within commerce.

I was a producer for many years and burnt out. I started to loathe the way creatives were treated and the needed it not just yesterday, but two weeks ago and by the way can you get this done tomorrow because the client is going on vacation and doesn't want to be bothered, and get that done for negative two cents ... often not enough money and/or time to do it well first time around, though always money for corrections. Sorry, whining ...

There were years and times where it was fun. I did learn a lot ... about process, creative collaboration, EGOS, creative souls, shitty business peeps ... a whole plethora of characters and lessons. Though glad to be on another journey ...

I wish the best to you ... gonna risk sounding trite though it comes from my heart ... I wish a miracle of health for you ...

And Thank you again for speaking a needed truth.

I was lucky enough to be assigned to work with Lindsey as a pretty green copywriter in Scotland looooooooong time ago.

Seeing how beautifully he can write , only now realizing how much he much have suffered the banal scribblings of writers like me! Or maybe just me.

Agree with the person who suggested it be required reading every six months.

Wah.

WOW.. THAT'S A *LOOOOOONG* BLOG POST!!!!

oh sooo true, funny, thxs

Linds, In regards to your legacy, this article will send ripples through the industry. Simply by questioning your contribution to society you've made a massive one.

Sadly, I found this article on a fellow AD's Facebook page while staying up late to work on random projects in an effort not to get "found out" by the rest of the art community. It's an epidemic that's not slowing down any time soon.

Seriously, this is an amazing introspective. I'm sharing this with everyone I know in the industry. It's officially required reading.

Thank you!

Thomas

As a young creative, reading this is unnerving. But I would rather read now what is painfully true, then to regret 20 years on. Forget 6 months, I'm going to read this after every late night at the office.

Hi Lindsay,
Hall Advertising in the 80's and you and Lawrence rock up looking the very epitome of the hotshot creative team - from down South! They must be 'real' creatives (unlike me an undiscovered charlatan) and they got their picture in Campaign, bastards.
That was When Advertising Was Fun and the clients weren't living in mortal fear all the time. A time when the marketing people were in marketing because they wanted to be, not just because it was a mandatory departmental stop-off on the Grand Tour of the Corporation on their way to the top.
There was time for lunch; often liquid, usually prolonged as a prelude to wandering round to the typesetters to bicker about serifs, ligatures and kerning.
The only problem with the technology of the day was that your Pantone markers would run out of ink or the typewriter ribbon would fail.
So I suppose what we've seen is the change of advertising from craft to industrial process with all the 'efficiencies' that entails.
You kids, read it, pass it on and learn there's more to life than putting in facetime at the office.
Thanks for the article, not bad writing for an art director and only one typo:) Kind wishes to you from Canada.

A brilliant post. As a Creative working in the Ad Agency, I can attest to everything you've stated so clearly and articulately. It's all so blatantly obviously the way you've put it - and yet it continues to be oh so difficult to break free from the chain.

Wow, amazing perspective. Thank you for writing this. I'll take it to heart and share.

1. Day to day life in an ad agency is as dramatic and stressful as you and your colleagues decide to make it.

2. Capitalism is the greatest force in the world for helping people rise out of poverty, raise standards of living, and gain individual freedom. Advertising is an important part of that. And I'm proud to be a part of it too.

3. If you make your career about chasing awards, you probably will be miserable because you're putting your personal happiness in the hands of other people.

4. Nobody forces anyone to work in an asshole-filled sweatshop. Go find another agency to work at, if that bothers you. If all the agencies in your city are like that, move to another city.

5. We all have to learn to choose our battles. Not every campaign we do is going to be ideal. Fight for the diamonds, do a professional job on the widgets, kill the darlings, and know when to let go. See point #1.

6. But I actually agree with you on the overnight test. That is an important step.

Time allows you to see mistakes. Er, like this typo:
An research was the new god.

I believe the writer meant "And."

Thanks. Great summary of the career path, and emotional trajectory, of a creative.

gosh. this really hits home and actually makes me feel better that i'm bitter and totally sick of it and burnt out.

March 22nd 7.37... Think that might be Martin Sorrel

Thank you for this. This is exactly why I quit advertising. Never, ever again.

Wow, fabulous piece of wisdom and insight, voicing what many of us know, perhaps deep down, but are afraid or too weak to admit and remedy. Thanks for sharing this important perspective with us, Linds. Wishing you all the best.

Thanks & GoodNight!

This is so bunk. People keep sending it to me. Tell you what - go tar a roof for a day then tell me how you feel about your advertising job.

brilliant. Glad to say, as a mother of two, I walked away from advertising after a mere 15 years. When pondering if it would be possible to return in a more relaxed role, I was told by an executive, "Unfortunately, every industry that I know is having less people cover more work, not just advertising. Everyone is connected 24/7 and it has become the new normal." Just like that, without skipping a beat and with no apologies. This is what we've become...a society that perpetuates itself through 24/7 industry and the abandonment of home life as the 'new normal'.

I remember hearing in a play called "Steiglitz/O'Keefe", Georgia saying about the artist Marsden Hartly something like "..he tries to glorify himself through his art, rather than art through himself"

this quote resonated with me as I read this...

I know it's something I wrestle with as a creative person.

This has to be one of the most moving and beautifully written pieces I've read in a good deal of time. It has validated everything I've thought - and believed I was almost alone in thinking. Thank you.

Thank you for writing this.

Brutally true.

Fuck...

Me...

That there is some heavy, powerful shit.

A friend recently told me that patients in the palliative care ward of a hospital were surveyed over the period of a few years about what they would do differently in given a do-over. Their answers:

1) I wish I didn't work as hard
2) I wish I worked harder to be happy

I've done a lot of soul searching lately about this very topic. I keep telling myself this is the right thing to do. It's not. This article helped solidify it. As you've said, I'm powering down and going to bed with my wife.

God speed.

"This is so bunk. People keep sending it to me. Tell you what - go tar a roof for a day then tell me how you feel about your advertising job."

I'm going to jump to a conclusion here and say you didn't read the article, dipshit. Perhaps because it was too long and your attention span too short. The only other logical conclusion is that you failed reading comprehension.

The next time you want to tear down the thoughts of a person as tenured as he is – don't. He's got a great deal of perspective and he's trying to tell you something.

Thank you so much for writing this you have nailed my creative psyche perfectly. forwarding on to my crew.

good luck and best wishes.

OMG! You've summed up my entire life in 5 scroll-downs! Thanks for putting everything into perspective and serving this reminder. What a hoot! Thought I was the only one feeling this way – especially when you're forced to create with a gun to your head.

Occasionally we've pulled off some last-minute stunts – just to pacify a client who will only buy 1 idea – thanks to a brief that asks for 6 versions of the proposition ... ah the list continues.

Thank you again for reminding me that I'm not a lonely soul with nightmare suits and bean counters banging on my office door.

Will save this to remind me on occasion and when the shit hits the fan!

Oh BTW, I'm writing this from halfway across the world in Malaysia. But we face the SAME(!!!) issues! whoa! so the grass is also artificial turf on the other side! LOL!

Can someone summarize this into bullets or maybe an infographic?
I'm far too busy being slave driven to read the whole thing.

Sleeping on a creative transformation always does the trick and as your verbally illustrating the pitch in a design board meeting the peanut gallery outloud additional thinking can help complement, build & excite the process or rub it the wrong way depending on if you like your cohorts? Nothing is worse than pitching to a room of zombies!

I always considered finding the ultimate right people to work with gold, and knowing people a commodity, because ultimately it is not all about me and it's nice to share great creativity!

Good read!

This should be required reading not just for your industry but every industry.

Nobody dies wishing they had spent more time at work...

I salute the prose and lament the truth of it, but cringe at the lack of proof reading. As in all else, it seems, not even those committed to the romantic ideal of perfection can find the motivation to sweat the details that bring it to fruition in this graceless age.

I especially adored the passage, "He quite liked the green one. Apart from the typeface, the words, the picture and the idea. Oh, and could the logo be bigger? Hope it wasn’t a late night. Thank god for computers eh?"

Thanks anyway for documenting a widely shared view of the titanic triumph of mediocrity.

I love this piece - smart, insightful, heartfelt, and balanced. Thank you for taking the time, for opening your heart in this way. I recently wrapped up a 30+-year career in advertising and my experiences mirror yours to a "t".
I did it all: TV, radio, print, transit and outdoor, pamphlets, sales kits, transtops, package copy (front and back), annual reports, and a few posters.
I worked with charlatans and hucksters, angels and a few demons, some scoundrels, no saints and no geniuses, a lot of good people and very few bad people. Again, thanks for a fine piece.

This appeals to all - sobering when you are starting your career, realistic when in the midst, and an answer to your questioning mind when you step aside - Thanks for this post

It's all true, of course. The dirty little secret is, everyone who's done this work for any length of time knows in their heart of hearts that it's true. It's just so jarring, almost physically painful, to have it punched in your face with such honest force. What we've buried deep inside for so long has just been exhumed. And it's not going back in the box anytime soon.

I suppose I should put away my work now, and maybe go to dinner with my wife. It's Saturday night after all. But account service expects to see it first thing Monday, and it's just not good enough yet.

loads of b/s. trying to give the impression that you're criticizing the advertising business but at the same time you're referring to the artist's burden.

instead of whining about sleepless nights and "hard work" which has no good to the mankind, why do people not challenge the background assertion that advertising people are "creative", "smart", and they are "artist"s?
advertisers are not creative. they redo the same things over and over.
they are not smart. i bet none of those advertising guru's could score the same mark in a general skills or iq test as an average doctor or engineer.
they are not artists. let them them write or direct a proper movie and see the product.
all over the world the advertisers have this belief (they have to believe it themselves to sell it to others) that they are very important and all industries depend on them. that's not true. at the end of the day you come up a couple of sentences, 3-word-slogans.

p.s. sorry about broken english, it's not my first language..

A great post. Very true in many professions. Mine is Architecture.
Unfortunately we come to this realization after many years of slugging it out. Also unfortunate is the simple fact that we all have to work to survive.
Linds, I'd truly wish you the best but I don't think its possible at this stage. Take care.

Also, to the critical comments I see above mine. Piss off!

so true and beautifully penned.
to quote my dear departed and over houseworked mum. "I never did so much laundry as when I got a washing machine"

thanks for posting it

I really enjoyed this post. Truly edifying. I have shared my frustration on the direction the creative industry is going on my diary http://t.co/NDswm0yW .
Soul searching for the Creatives is real.

I had the same sort of epiphany. I worked as a contractor for about 15 ad agencies in a few different cities over ten years, and eventually became tired of making disposable stuff that I felt like nobody cared about. I had all these creative and technical skills, and they were going to nothing meaningful. Now I run a little tech startup trying to make seniors less lonely - it's not paying the bills yet, but I'm a lot happier and feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. It was easy to get used to a lower income. I totally relate to this article.

I have to leave this comment anonymously, because that is the kind of world we live in these days, where you aren't allowed to be really you, because the you that you show to the world is owned piecemeal by money, just like everything else.

The real me read this article and agreed wholeheartedly with pretty much everything said, apart from one thing; I never fooled myself into believing that advertising was anything other than a mid-range paid job.

Do yourselves a favour people - turn up at 9am and go home at 5:30pm. Kiss your kids. Have a hobby. Do some of that hobby during work time. Don't fall for the mantra pumped out that what you are doing is somehow important - believe me, it isn't.

I just won a heap of awards this year. They only feed my ego, nothing more.

Go to thezeitgeistmovement.com and check out what they are doing. Real things about real problems - not just veneer thin nonsense feeding the mirror of our own self-delusion.

Truth shouldn't be painful. Yet I had to laugh at my pain while reading this. Thank you.

Whether you spent 2 months or a decade in the industry, same crazy thoughts and cardboard chewing in your mouth. Nice rant. Well done :)

I don't remember writing this, but I must have. that was my life and those were and are my thoughts.

I do free range, rare breed pigs now.

They pass the overnight test. Every time.

Great article. Should be included as required reading on all creative courses.

I started to cry while reading this article. Probably a combination of the stress, long nights and the relief of hearing someone perfectly articulate my inner thoughts.

Not something you'd probably expect from a "suit..." However I empathize completely with the creatives every time I throw a ridiculous list of deliverables and unachievable deadline on a brief. We're all performing monkeys...

Powering down...

x

You know what- this isn't restricted to the creative industries. It's universal, and a little sad. The simple fact is most of our ideas are mundane and prosaic by definition. Most of us live with the illusion that our output is profound, but most of it it isn't.Most of us have just got used to that idea and reconciled themselves to it. I think creatives are just perhaps just more prone to that self-delusion, and ironically the best creatives are the most exposed of all! The rest of us just find little avenues where we are relevant and receive validation in our own tiny ways.

That is why genuine novelty and artistry is so wonderful, and all the better when its un-selfconscious, and why the rare instances are sometimes so celebrated.

If you find the magic formula, please share it, but I think you are on the right track. The most important thing is family, people we love, tiny marginal impacts on the great flow of entropy that contributes in tiny marginal ways to the inexorable march towards the destiny of the universe. be the best you can, and leave it better than you found it. And stay humble!

As a freelancer doing mostly illustration for educational textbooks after more than enough years in the ad industry, I recently questioned whether I shouldn't go back to the ad agencies and trawl around with my portie since that work is so much more lucrative. Not to mention glamorous..whoops, almost got caught again.

Thanks for the reminder. I'll concentrate on animation instead and maybe leave some meaningful and lasting works in the world when it's time to pop my clogs. And want less things, spend less money and play a whole lot more, maybe. :D

Then there's the shamanic healing to look into as well... Hell I might even smile on my deathbed. Thanks Linds, and thanks Peter for sending it to me.

Worked at a "top" agency, quit to be with my fam. The main reason, hearing some of the really f'n dumb, stereotyped driven ideas and crazy hours. I knew I wanted out after my first week. I don't care how good I am, I can be good for my own company.

There are a number of ways to release that creative passion, agency life was not the way for me.

The thing that bothers me, so many talented people are scared to leave and see what else may be out there. The economy sucks so time it however you like, just try one day before you are cut to boost the agency's bottom line.

And don't let them pay yor cll phone, don't even give them te number if you can help it. I hated those weekend calls from the idiot that bs'd during the week and finally wanted todo real work.

Thank you for your story and giving me an outlet on this matter. Convincing people to buy crap ass products... Awesome. Value the customer, make better quality products... that would be a better basis to build upon.

Superb. Every bullet hits the target square in the heart.

This is exactly the sort of post I have actually imagined finding myself writing should I ever be in a position like yours.

I’m still writing copy, as I have for 20 years, but the awareness that this is not what I dreamed of, and that time is running out, is becoming overwhelming. You’ve crystallised all those 3am thoughts into an extraordinarily powerful piece. I’m just so sorry it took this ‘enforced detachment’ to allow you to write it.

Thank you for this. I won’t forget it.

Every good wish to you and yours.

Good Morning San Francisco! Wake Up and Move onto current posts and not rewriting and reading this awesome editorial! " />

Bang on.

I played along with the whole shebang while I had children to raise, mortgage to pay and responsibilities. The moment the last child was safely let loose on the world, a major depression set in. My higher purpose had been raising my children and once that was done, I was just selling my soul to the devil.

So I set up my own agency, with the intention of doing things ethically and differently. We actually programmed the computers to turn off at 5.30 so my staff could go home!

Sadly, the figures didn't stack up. To pay 'industry rates', someone had to churn out more work to earn extra dollars to subsidise their salaries - and that turned out to be me. I burnt more midnight oil, spent every weekend in the office, trying to turn out work to be proud of. I was forever promising my partner, children, friends - and myself - that this campaign would be the one to make it pay, then we'd be on terra firma.

Eventually, I did the maths and realised I'd been a fool. The advertising industry only turns a profit if you treat your creatives like milking cows, employ hungry account managers to flog them, and settle for turning out half baked ideas for junior clients whose idea of a brand is the right size / colour logo.

I breathed a sigh of relief, shut up shop and went travelling and haven't looked back.

best thing ive read in ages. bloody brilliant. sharing this with everyone i know!

This makes so much sense, and it is beautiful in a strange way.

Thanks.

Best wishes to you.

Well expressed article, written from the heart.

As an ad director who saw creatives suffer from a distance I can verify it it's truth. It was more fun in the 80's, but even then the older heads mourned the 60's and 70's. Technology has indeed been a blessing and a curse. I turn the TV on and see no ads I'd wish I'd done. My heros in the business got fewer and fewer.

I always used to wonder what happened to people in the industry who got old. Did they retire, move to other industries? No one ever talked about them. It's a very insular world, advertising. There is a common agreement that unless you are in the game, you don't count. I always got the impression that if you told it like it is, as Linds does, then the whole edifice could tumble. And when you left, as I did eventually, no one kept in touch, you had no friends, just people you used to work with.

But you have to put it in perspective. Being a creative in an ad industry is a lot better than most jobs and it pays well. If you were ever going to be a fine artist or a writer or designer, you would have gone in that direction after college. If you didn't like it and had the balls to quit and do something else, you would have done it before 30 years in the game. In my 20 years experience of creatives in advertising agencies, from around the world but mostly London, I met no geniuses. I met a few that were good at what they did but no one that raised the bar to art levels. One or two directors that they hired made them look good, admittedly. Yes, they were constrained by clients and account men, given crappy deadlines, worked like mules. But still, it's was better than digging a ditch.

Sometimes yo have to look at the positives.

Truth Bomb.

Such a great article... but it can have a happy ending.

I'm out! I'm with my family. I am sitting beside the ironing board and the boxes of spare shit we haven't unpacked yet. I have 2 spare mattresses leaning up against my office wall. But I can hear my baby laughing, I can watch 'Bluto' the blue tongued lizard slowly making his way through the garden and I am sitting in my boxer shorts.

Yesterday I shot an ad with an internationally renowned person (the subject of an Oscar winning movie). And it's a good ad too. If it works out it'll be one of my career best. And the client came to me via a simple phone call as a result of a recommendation. The client's main competitor had a 3 way national agency pitch. I am working with the best strategist I ever have. He is his own business. I am mine. We have no employees. Just partners. This morning I did the finances for the first time in a month or so. Turns out I don't need anymore work this financial year. I just have to finish what I have on my plate now and I will finish ahead of where I planned... and then go and play with the family. It's great. Nothing like the agency life I had and was so insightfully described above.

But this is only possible because I built my own brand (nice person, good creative) whilst I worked in agencies. I loved my time in agencies. Had a ball. Met great people, learned from them and then later as a CD enjoyed teaching them, grew to respect and love my suits and clients. It was all good. Until it wasn't. Until I started to see exactly what Linds has described. But then I got out!

Not into the wilderness, but into a new pasture. Turns out the road less travelled has a pretty good view of the way ahead and is a mostly pleasant trip. Less ego, no awards, more connection with my clients, more possibilities free of the incumberances and parameters of the agency model. My advice is enjoy your time, be the best you can be and when you feel it is time to go, go.

Linds is right. But the beauty of agency life is that it can upskill you fast.

This cut so deep, I'm in tears.
Thank you Linds.

(Promise to keep mum about the body buried in the woods.)

After having a son 12 months ago I got a job in a steel factory my father has worked at for 30+ years, says he's only doing another 5. I thought it was the right thing to do for my family. Worked there for 6 months on 12 hour shift work, four days a week. Was miserable and depressed and having to talk about the casino or horse races with co-workers didn't help. I never saw my father growing up because he worked every overtime he could. He lives in a big house now and has a nice car but a barely there marriage and a lot of health issues. I just started working in the ad/marketing department at a not-for-profit arts centre and have never been happier. Making a LOT less money but I see my family and friends more and can practice and play shows with my band more. At home by 5:30 and happy to go in on Monday morning. 2 hour meetings? Great! Much better the spending 12 hours in a noisy, dirty cement cube with a guy I have NOTHING in common with and who is even more depressed then me. As long as you make something of it. Be passionate.

Not having an outlet for your creativity is a sure fire way to depression and regret. Don't be affraid to leave security to find a balance. I take this is a cautionary tale agaist the workaholic. Don't give up life for money.

Wow. This really moved me. I had to quit my job a couple of months ago due to stress related illnesses, and I'm only 26. The deadlines are just not worth it!

Lindsay

Your a genius writing this article. It was very confronting.

Not only is it so thoughtfully and cleverly expressed.

I believe it will become viral and save lives.

Not just of those bound to advertising and other creative industries.

I am one of the lucky ones who escaped and saw through the BS of advertsing in the early 90s.

I have friends and relatives still entrenched 25 years after I escaped.

Blessings while you create for your soul and not the machine.

Thank you. Just brilliant. I wish you'd write a book about it, without a deadline.

Kind regards
Lisa Peacock
Melbourne, Australia

WaWa... I'm off to gO surfing! Oo my KEMO therapy!

Linds' EDitorials are addictive as licking your LCD handheld computer screen!

Thank you Lindsay its all the things we want to say but cos we are working in this biz we don't !... cos we are all scared of losing the current job the next job that will give us the 'next Fix' or next pay packet .

Keep them coming its fantastic and enjoy your life
best
paulMOGG

I managed to survive 52 years in Adelaide, London, Johannesburg, Jeddah, and Dubai before retiring and giving up copywriting faction for writing fiction. After reading Lindsay's revealing comments I have to agree as I now find, at the end of my working life, that I have achieved little more than ensuring that a roof stayed over my wife's head and that there was food in the refrigerator whilst the owners of the agencies reaped the rewards. Admittedly, I won the usual egotistical plaudits (British Television Awards, Clios etc) but I now gain a great deal more pleasure and work a lot harder than I ever did without being compelled to steam through nights and weekends with only a few cans of beer for company.

Thank god I called quits years back. Great read. Comes out straight from the heart. There's more to life than a few metals, campaigns and what not.

Thank you.
These are the words behind the thoughts that I have.

This is an insightful take on exactly what happens/is happening.
Falsifies and entire existence, and will be tough for people to hear, but it's more true than any of the work we have ever toiled over, or money we have made from it.

Please write a book so I can read it.

thanks for this.

I myself have never seen advertising as a way to make good money--my biggest regret is I didn't understand how far I could live beneath my means when I was younger. While I'm saving a lot now, I would have saved a lot MORE if I'd been smart, and be out of this by now.

Still, advertising's supported me well enough that in down times (I'm a freelancer) I could finish my first novel (which was published). Now, when I'm at work and it's slow, I work on my second novel. Your own creative work, that no one's paying you for--that's what's worth sleepless nights and big effort, not some crap ad for yogurt.

What an honest and brilliant portrayal. The industry is almost inconsequential, as most of them are all the same. It is a shame your tumour was what awoke you (it appears). As the child of someone who lost a parent working as you did, your children will respect the risks you took, the fact that you were committed to doing what you thought was the right thing to do, following a dream - any dream for the improvement of their life. People have no doubt respected you in your past life as they do in this current one. Enjoy the time you have and reflect on your success. Thanks for the reminder. I don't need it all the time but it will come in handy.

...and that is precisely why I haven't stepped into an agency in three years. I haven't been happier!

Thank you.

Thank you.

You brought up so many points - some I thought of before adjusting my career path. Others were completely novel but were there for me in an unconscious level of my decision-making process.

But most of all, thank you for validating me. It took me half as long to see what you saw and you erased the doubt that plagued me in the middle of the night.

Thank you, Linds. This is something everyone, regardless of their "calling", should read before accepting that "great position with a wonderful organization", whatever/whomever that may be.

This piece has value beyond measure.

God bless you!

Thank you, for spending the time and sparing the courage to write this all down. As a creative advertising student, I can attest first hand to the changes you're talking about. My very BEST work are the pieces my classmates and I can leave ticking overnight. Anything hurried isn't worth a hay-penny.
Wishing you the best in your health and with your family, and just know that (like EVERYONE posting on this blog and more can attest) you have made a huge difference in the world, if only to say what we're all thinking.

You did what you love to do, utilized your unique talents, and had fun along the way...that is something to be proud of. Who knows if you ever would have been able to write a piece as emotional and thought-provoking as this had you chosen a career that didn't allow your creativity to grow and flourish. When done correctly, advertising can be something that introduces art, emotion, and inspiration to places you normally wouldn't find it.
Stay strong and thank you so much for sharing.

You're right. Absolutely right, and in our heart-of-hearts, we all know it.

Thing is, the ones who should read it or need to read it will be nose-to-the-grindstone, or in the end, just not give a shit to take the time. Most are too busy selling their souls and running the art of the business even further into the ground, if that's possible.

It took me ten years to get into advertising as a copywriter, and twenty years to get out. In the end, the die-hard creative in me took one look at the new baby boy in my arms and knew there'd be no campaign more important than raising a healthy, happy, productive human being. So that's what I did.

I'm not saying I've never looked back. Or gone back to do contract work. The con is sometimes great, even in retrospect. But what I gained at home far, far exceeds what I lost at work.

On the other hand, my husband is still in the middle of it all. He takes a 5am train to the city, is at his desk by 7am and with no apologies heads home to his family a little before 5 every night. He's been in the business for 34 years, and still, sometimes even loves it, even in a big city, big agency with a big client.

I couldn't find a balance. Thank goodness he could. I wish the same for all you bulldog creatives who choose to soldier on, despite the odds!

Thank you for sharing your insights, Linds.
Godspeed.
Cynthia

Thanks for putting into words exactly what compelled me to jump off the advertising Titanic 3 years ago after I had my daughter. It's been tough missing all the creative wackiness and convincing my old friends and myself that I'm still "hip and cool." But the fact is, I don't care...I never did and it's for precisely the reasons you stated. It's inconsequential and I don't want to look back at my life as an exercise in futility. Thank you and God Bless You.

The tragedy of the magician is that he must first kill his own belief of magic before he is able to assert its existence to others.

Never drink the kool-aid.

This post goes way beyond the advertising industry. This reality has taught us that doing is receiving. All doing does is earn a living. But we believe it to be much more than that. Being present and looking inwardly is bliss.

Ask what yourself what it would take to finally become fully conscious and see what happens. You might like it.

News flash: every business on earth is about exploiting talent.

I really enjoyed this article. So many truths about what is wrong but just accepted as 'the way the industry works'. Thanks Linds

Yes
So true
But hard to jump on the other side, even if we are aware of it

still, considering a point of the article is that advertising just ain't that important, the artists & artisans vs the rest mentality is, ironically enough, quite self-important.

truly brave and poetic.
Your words serve the community well.

It comes off to me as going through the process, knowing it so well - to well - and then psychosis of dreaded metamorphis. Im a happy camper never having worked in a traditional office or advertising!

Most ideas end results are always raw - and could have should have would have filler we call work just to work.

thank you.

nsa

Timely message heard loud and clear. While beating myself up for the uptenth time about how it can be I have this enviable creative job and yet be so terribly unhappy, I came across this article. This has been the biggest wake up call yet. Time to make some big changes.

Thank You...

I respectfully disagree.
I think this comes down to motivation.

To put this into perspective, It's currently 7am in the morning and I haven't slept for 24 hours doing work, so I do feel very strongly about this topic.

Motivation for a pat on the back is never a good sign.
Of course if your working in advertising making a commercial about something you couldn't care less about, in the meantime sacrificing health, sanity and family is not a good thing.

People like Martin Luther king for example sacrificed everything for something he believed strongly in and changed humanity forever for the better.

Beethoven did the exact same thing. Tortured his body and mind to the absolute extreme for art. I for one a few centuries later could not have been more inspired from that.

The list goes on and on.

The reason I work and sacrifice for art is because of the work and stories that I have heard have profoundly touched my soul.

I cry when I hear stories of such beautiful human strength. My soul sings when i see work of such profound beauty. The desire to do the same for others and give back to humanity this beauty is my motivation for putting myself through such torture.

If I die a painful death by the time I'm 40 having known I pushed myself passed what was possible and gave back to humanity I would die with the biggest smile, happier than a 90 year old who spent every day waking up at 8am listening to the birds sing.

What you said is so true. For the last 25 years I have been working to live rather than living to work. I'm not rich, but I don't have to work with clients that I don't like. You might try mercola.com for answers to your cancer. It has helped me a lot.
David

I'd hug ya if I could

It's also a good reminder to have your own nest egg, and look to your future (or at least, who you are when you're not part of Them) rather then palliate yourself with the expensive baubles and wrap parties full of champagne fountains.

Then, at least, if you've got your own little slice of the world (be it a home, a secure retirement plan, a houseboat, a little Italian deli that does alright for itself, etc...) you've got the option of working only on projects that you really love, and being able to say no to the dancing-monkey shit.

That's the real Fuck You Money.

This article echoes my thoughts, word for word.

I am young and stupid. I see myself following in the same groove. After staring at a screen 12 hours yesterday with Adobe suite swimming in my dreams last night (I tried working in my sleep but unfortunately I don't remember the outcome). I feel like this article can change my life or help me come to terms with it. Thank you for the beautiful and the ugly because I have to work and I have to create, mind as well do them both at the same time.

Brilliant insight. I work in film, physical fx to be specific. There are many parallels. Bean counters ruin everything. Lawyers too. I spend an inordinate amount of time with contracts and insurance, then its more time wasted on budget revisions. In the end we just sometimes have to wing it at the last minute, hoping for success and something the director or studio is happy with. All of our precious prep time is wasted on foot dragging and competitive bids and on and on... I don't know what a green light is anymore... they say "GO" then it's "wait, can we save $ if we do this or that?". It's downright exhausting!!

great article, but i have to ask: who's editing this stuff? it's riddled with grammatical errors.

Look the people you love in the eye and feel their gaze in your heart
Be the best friend you can be
Hold hands
Breathe
Talk
Share your thoughts and your feelings and, most importantly, your laughter with them
Be vulnerable
Be intimate
(Yes you'll get hurt but it'll be worth it)
Put your arms around your love in the morning and be a little later to work because of it
Smell their smell
Kiss them wherever your lips press up against them
Whisper to them in the quiet how this, this is the best thing in the world
And know that, even if you live to be a hundred years old, that there will never, ever be enough of these moments
Be grateful for them

This was tough to read before a Saturday at the office (architecture firm) that I could see no earthly way to cut short.

You changed my life with these words. Rest in Peace, Linds.

It is sad and wonderful to see this post. I thing advertising honchos have forgotten that creative people are not machines who work on order. Some of the best ideas come in the toilet the day after you've submitted something to the client.

Nowadays, the morning begins with you reaching to work first and brushing your teeth in office.

Everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere but nobody really knows where that is.

I've ended a sentence on a preposition and i shall have to flog myself.

Thanks for a great read.

P.S. I would have loved to leave this comment overnight and re-read it in the morning but work forces me to do otherwise.

R.I.P mate. you were my creative mentor in Faulds. I'll never forget your wise advice & patience you gave a snotty Welsh Art Director.

My thoughts are with your family. x

fantastic, so glad to have read this..
RIP to an obviously great guy.

Like a boss. Honestly feel liberated after reason that. RIP friend - your words have truly made a difference for a lot of people

Great article, and not at all limited to the creative fields. Applies to any white collar job.

I have mixed feelings about this. I love a lot of it and completely agree with the sentiment that we can often get the importance of ads out of perspective. Family is more important. But also, everyone's work is important to them whether they are a plumber, a marketer or an IT person.

However, it is nice to be reminded that we need to keep advertising in perspective. But at its best, advertising can add to a culture and bring mischief and fun to a society (and works for the business who paid for that ad to happen).

But there are other things to consider like the fact, a creative in advertising is not a struggling artist dying for their craft. They get paid a lot of money if they are worth their chop. A lot more than most of the people creating art out there. I work in advertising and I am married to an artist. He chose a very unstable career path with no idea if he would ever make a cent. He started off with nothing, worked for nothing for a very long time - as in NOTHING. Not like a small salary, I am talking a zero salary. And then, after a few years, he became successful. And while many of his peers are still earning nothing and working hard, he is lucky to be busy. But guess what? Now that he is a busy artist, he has to work to deadlines and come up with ideas on the spot and over night and with a metaphorical gun to his head.

I appreciate this article, but I can't help but think it is a bit bratish. We in advertising love it and yes, sometimes we get taken for a ride because we are so passionate about it. But we also get nice offices, paid a lot and often free booze at the end of each day.

After seeing this article for the first time, I totally agree with the authors point that you need to put your family and friends first because those are more important than your day job. But people seem to be missing that point and skipping right to the conclusions that "advertising is the shittiest its ever been, and even when it was cool, nobody outside the industry gave a shit" just because he correctly articulated what motivates people in our industry.

The article distracts with its "everything sucks now" cynicism that has become trendy on the internet...especially among people who work in advertising. It uses wise, emotional writing and a tragic story to veil what is, for the most part, masturbatory self-loathing. But he gets to the real lesson. The real problem is not advertising, its trying to derive your self-worth and ego from how other people view your career (which people in competitive industries are prone to do). Would he have been more happy as a famous novelist or Oscar-winning film director? No. The Pulitzer Prize and The Oscars are just another Gold Lion or Clio. On a long enough timeline its all bullshit.

His too-cool-for-school attitude that advertising isn't of "lasting importance" creatively might be what is throwing people off. The fact is, using a completely logical set of premises, you can make the case that NOTHING matters and nobody cares about anything. 80% of the world's population live in poverty and only care about finding food. You think these people even know what the industrial world deems a "significant" creative contribution? Do you think they know what the Mona Lisa is or have ever seen an Oscar winning film?

Here's another question: A couple thousand years from now, do you think even the industrialized world will care about ANYTHING that ANYBODY is doing right now? Maybe the World Wars and the moon landing will be in the elementary school curriculum. But how many clay sculptors do you remember from 200 B.C.? What's your favorite battle hymn from 500 A.D.?

All we can do in this world is find something that gets us excited and push it in the direction we think it should go. 99.9999999% of the time, nobody will ever remember us or what we did. But it doesn't mean we didn't change the world---even in the most insignificant of ways. All of those teeny little efforts from millions of people end up snowballing into what no other species can accomplish, progress.

Remember kids, its SO easy to be cynical. I mean heck, all you do is help sell potato chips to make people fat so you might as well just kill yourself right? But advertising is one of the fundamentals of trade and enterprise (which is the basis of civilization) and that's what built the walls over your head.

You know those evil potato chips? Well they employ thousands of people at factories who support their families based on the sales you help generate. Walk a day in a factory worker's shoes. Or better yet, walk a day without shoes in a third world country. Then tell me how horrible advertising is. The bottom line and the real lesson to be learned here is not that advertising sucks, its that deriving your happiness from your career---whatever it may be----is a dead end road. As he said, go home and kiss your wife and kids.

How do you know me????

Wow, bob on.

I'll be now rushing home to feel and marvel at my wife's baby bump. A truly marvelous creation.

You sir, are amazing!
You have just shot straight to my heart with this!
Your life has been extremely valuable in the sense that you haven't been typing numbers into a million boxes a day, and you have kept your family and yourself well paid! (at least better paid then if you where that 60 year old working the door in ASDA)

I hope you are comfortable in the knowledge that you are an inspiration to all of us creatives!

Thank you

Just a brilliant piece. Exactly how I feel on a regular basis, more and more so as I gain experience and years.

Okay--so I guess there's no point to being in the creative industry, then. No point to anything, in that case, since being creative is about the only thing I really like to do. Writing stories and drawing pictures. Okay, crushed by reality, got it.

I love this and can relate on every artistic level. Thank you for eloquently writing what I could never find the words for, until now.
E.

I came here via a link on a blog that mentioned the passing of the gentleman who wrote this thought-provoking piece. It's just as well he wrote it after he had turned his back on the industry...if you wrote this while working in advertising and signed your name to it, you'd be DONE. And that, my friends, tells you all you ever need to know about this once-thrilling profession that has been hijacked from us by a bunch of slimy accountants.

Well said. The most valuable things I have done in my life have to do with quitting a safe refuge and fleeing into the wilderness.

I am an academic...

Very much of this feels deeply familiar ...

"We believe by working harder than anyone else we can evaded detection." Too true.

Brilliant. Thank you.

This industry is suffering. I hope it gets better soon.

Immensely brave and frighteningly true. I wish you good luck and longevity on the next stage of your journey.

Read this as I waited to join a conference call at 11pm on a Friday night. Wonderfully written and so true. I come from a family of advertising people - and I couldn't imagine doing anything else, but I also know doing something you enjoy comes at a price. It's all relative and I still consider myself lucky.

What an amazing read. Thank you. Simply brilliant and so so true.

great read. my dad, an english art-school dropout who bluffed his way up to creative director at several agencies (he passed away of esophageal cancer in 2011), would have loved it. bravo.

Beautifully written. Lots of thought and emotion only years of real life experience can provide. Plenty of insight that I've definitely noted for myself.

We are our own worst critics and its always a roadblock or obstacle. I've been researching I believe its called fear of success. Some people have it and some don't.

The question is how to overcome it and just achieve? Forget about what other people say or judge. Just design. Just do it.

Rudy

Even if you're not in advertising/marketing, there's a perspective here that reflects on how we produce and deliver our work (what ever that may be). For me, it's a reminder to give myself the permission to slow down.

Wow, this is so deep and amazingly insightful. If only my Volkswagen driving friends could understand this. They are so mundane, unlike us creatives who are so awesome and special.

Great piece. Thank you. I work as a writer in British TV not advertising but the same casual, industrial-scale executive disdain for the creative process and creative people is rife too. of course it's based on fear and envy and they truly hate us for having thoughts and ideas they could never dream of. But the the backroom boys are now the stars and the world is a far duller place for it. And creative lives are blighted beyond belief by the way those gouls and vampires in Paul Smith suits use our love for what we do against us.

I'm so glad you found your perspective and better place to be now all the way over there on your South Island.

All the best to you mate. I hope you enjoy every second of your new and better life de-toxified from the poison of fruitless ambition.

Paul

"As soon as they figure out a way of outsourcing thinking to China they won’t think twice."

Sadly, they've already done so. Look to http://logotournament.com and similar sites. Crowdsourced design by people far removed from the communication problem and often far removed from the audience culture. Seems more common to Indonesia than China, but give it another year.

Gosh, I want to hug you.

You have confirmed my worst suspicions for me, and I am 28. I'm not going to throw the rest of my life away on such a ridiculous industry.

Thank you for your insightful and honest post. I can't tell you how great it is to get a good dose of perspective in this industry.

RIP

We've got to stop working for the big networks and support new business.

Such a wonderful mind, such beautiful words.

I bailed on a 20-year career in photojournalism in '99, as I felt myself absorbed and invisible in an ocean that illustrated other people's stories, other people's agendas, other peoples goals. It was just a product, like any other, and in no way the full truth.

My years of work and passion (and Pulitzer nomination) helped buy my publishers kids a good college, but for my family provided little, needless to mention any savings account. Even now, hardly a week passes that I don't breath a sigh and think "I'm so glad I left".

But I sure miss The Dream. You know?

Rest in Peace Linds. If only you knew the impact your words are having on so many. It's the third time I've read this now and it's as poignant as ever, it truly makes me look twice at life and the precious moments I miss while consumed by television commercials.

You have inspired so many and all we can hope is you knew how precious you were and your family continues to feel the impact you had.

I utilize some sort of "The Overnight Test" in my sophomore and junior projects. In these exercises I have students exhaust any/every possible approach to creating form with certain constraints. The classes that follow, students discuss what works and what does not. I ask the student what they like and why, I star it and tell them that it is what they will generate into a final solution. While students will generate over 100 different scribbles or flops that would make any design or artist squirm, they have to pick 6 of their best ideas. Of these 6, they cannot exceed 2 from any step. My goal is to distill amazing work from a flow of exercising every option, it is also to allow the students the ability to draw the idea out rather than just think of it. It is important in today's age of NOW for young artists and designer to get everything on paper whatever is stupid or immature. If they do not put it on paper, it may get buried and subconsciously, since they do not see it, it may become a boulder rather than a small grain of sand.

Having worked at Grey WW from 1984-2008, it was an interesting waste of my life. 22 years of that crazy nights before the presentation to find out someone on top knew about the possibility one or two whole months before! Watching hundreds of bright eyed know-it-alls, fresh out of school, ready to take over the world, only to disappear a couple of months later. What ever happened to so and so? All this to promote some product no one should go near.

I'm 51 and decided that I was tired of contributing to crap. Only one campaign I ever worked on made a difference and actually saved lives and even at that I had to fight the idiot ad agency salesperson to make sure that the message was presented. Fortunately, the end buyer agreed with me and the campaign went through.

Linds Redding may have felt his creative life was wasted in advertising but it gained him insight that he was able to pass on to others and therefore his contribution ultimately was invaluable, if only to save others from his fate.

I used to work in the film industry and I used to hear stories about movie directors yelling at their underlings (all the directors I worked for were kind people. I guess I was lucky). Some even wore this as a badge of honor: I worked with (director's name) and lived to tell about it. Good for them. Contributing their skills at a humiliating price (no matter how well paid) for someone else's glory.

I think it's time the creatives pulling the carts (usually filled with non-creatives, bean counters, executives) need to just stop pulling. Sadly, a few will, but there will always be others to happily take the bit in their mouths. Mores the pity, I feel.

At 51, I'm ready to spit out the bit.

God bless you Linds Redding and may you rest in peace. You have given us creatives something that needs to be shared.

Everyone reading this should forward it to as many as possible.

i disagree money is not a motiver. money can be a signifier of success. creativity has a business side.

Of course it would never play well in business school, but the perspective Linds ultimately discovered on his own should have come - frequently - from outside sources such as friends, family, church. Maybe it did. Maybe he ignored it. But I would like to point out a few ways in which he did produce lasting results:

1) However his children viewed it, he modeled hard work. Yes, it may have been at the sad cost of ignoring his children, but they saw that a husband/father/citizen must contribute and sacrifices must be made. There is no question he sacrificed too much, but maybe that's the lesson they take away, even without his blog.

2) It is also true that he was true to himself. He found something to be passionate about and did it, and did it well. And, although it is unquestionably true that advertising leaves no lasting result other than more units sold, he paid attention to and nurtured his God-given talent. That is a lasting impact on everyone in his life. We are all called to do that.

3) It took facing mortality for Linds to finally acknowledge how the sacrifices he was making impacted those around him. By writing this perspective his lasting result will be the eye-opening, and hopefully trajectory-changing impact he makes on its readers.

Thank you Linds.

A stunning truth about what's important in this world. I'm also unbelievably impressed by the comments as early as March 2012...Thank you, Linds. Your authentic self finally came out.

We had great fun and made great work, while they are only cocksuckers!

Thanks mate,
This will be my bible from here on. I bloody hate my life as a designer. It's destroyed my happiness over 14 years.

Working in Bomb disposal? Well at least there's a chance you won't have to wake up another morning and face more soul-destroying crap - being a mouse, guided remotely by some moron client or boss.

It wasn't long after I became a designer - in an office - for a boss [after years as an illustrator] - that when driving across level-crossings I would secretly hope for a lethal collision so I wouldn't have to go into the work again.

And might I just add? BASECAMP and its time-tracking is the work of the devil, wielded by bosses. Yes, I must try to justify my every minute in work these days.

Well, I'm taking steps, and I won't be doing this design crap for much longer :) There is light at the end of that tunnel, I'm convinced of it.

Thanks again mate, and the very best of luck to you.
'Clive' - the designer

Reading at my desk having not had a lunch break. Today I'm selling suburbia, something I hate passionately.

I knew this industry was toxic before I even started. My dad did it; he stopped; he told me. He said if you need some money, think about doing it for a little while, then stop; don't get stuck. Here I am, and I think I'll quit while I'm young.

A quick proof would go far. A few typos in there.

Thanks Linds.
Crack on.

Amazing, powerful stuff made all the more amazing and powerful by the fact that it's the truth. I've worked in media, marketing and advertising for almost 15 years as a copywriter and every word here resonates with me.

I'm sharing this with every creative I know.

Use the spell checker next time. And long winded, too.

I worked as an architectural draftsman for 9yrs. missed out on most of my daughters childhood, I would work 40 hrs in the office and come home, work 30 more hours, not even claiming all of them because I so desperately wanted to create perfection and show that I could do it in a reasonable time frame...Im epileptic and would give myself freaking seizures over this! When I started @ my company I didn't know autocad, I just loved architecture and was so thrilled to be given a chance, I learned on the job, fast, I charmed clients, our little shop went from 40 jobs a year to 160, we hired more people, another draftsman on my recommendation. Then the market crashed, we went back to 40 jobs...and who got laid off? Not the new "bean counter" , secratary or even the newer draftsman (he had more expirence in 3d program revit-which I was also learning), but despite my efforts, despite my loyality, everything, I was told perfection just wasn't that important and the other guy worked faster!!! Sorry, if i spent $2mill on a house, id want my outlets in smart places, ceiling beams not cutting into door frames, my roof leaking!!! Now I'm 37 back in school, nobody is hiring in that field and as a creative person and a single mom, I'm kind of lost...

Great reflections. Kind of funny that at the top of the page it reads: Advertise here. Go figure.

So you've spend your life honing your creative skills. Why don't you use them to make something personal? A gift for a friend, a message about something you believe... make some time for it, work on it slowly, don't ask anyone for advice...
Work makes you better at what you do, so the more you work, the more you can succeed in personal capacities.

The question is, do you have anything left to say?
(other than 'buy this')

This inspired me so much, that I wrote a song about Linds.
Thanks Linds... wherever you may be.
http://soundcloud.com/chavirovilla/me-against-the-world

I don't really get the people who read the article and then decided to only comment on proofreading aspects of it. They sound to me like they must be so far into the working mindset that they can't even turn it off long enough to think about an editorial piece's ideas and substance, rather than how "polished" a piece it is.

This article isn't supposed to sell us donuts, it's here to make us all evaluate our approach to working. It doesn't have to be short. It doesn't have to be flawless. This is a human being's thoughts and feelings and real-life experience, it isn't "bunk." By definition, someone's true account of events that actually happened cannot be bunk. If he were lying, sure. But this has the ring of truth. Instead of shooting it down for preposterous and inapplicable reasons like one stupid typo, or feeling threatened and defensive about it, why not try to learn from it? You must have gone through the whole "long-winded" thing for some reason...if it wasn't to gain new knowledge and insight, why did you even bother?

This has been the most accurate description I've ever read of our industry. We take such a beautiful thing as creativity and lock it up in this cage, and squeeze the life out of it.

Still, I believe the reason why we're so driven towards it is that we want to send a message across. Sometimes after being inside this world for so long we might forget what that was all about, but the longing to reach out to other never fades.

Linds, I'm sure you definitely achieved things of lasting importance. See, the first thing they teach us in ad school these days is that our work is NOT important. They tell us this to avoid people from having egos whenever they get a little golden statuette. And they are right, we are are not neuroscientists, but what we do can just as well save lives.

The messages we send out there do have an impact. They change people's perceptions, attitudes, believes, actions... That's why we need to be careful with the messages we send. We have the power to change the world, but it's up to us to take it into the right direction. Unfortunately, we forget about this when we let the client stir the wheel. But we should never ever forget our direction.

Thank you so much for being part of this mad world. Know there are still some crazy believers out there fighting for sending the right message across.

x

great post. But I don't agree with everything you say. Personally I think it does help shape the world, even if it's just pro-bono projects, innovations in language, opinion, tech or design, or just gladly paying the tax that you've earned.

Advertising made me join amnesty international at the age of 11... that's why i wanted to get into it as an adult

:)

Thanks Linds, as someone in advertising I totally agree, much of what we do as advertising professionals is meaningless and does not help anyone.

Or maybe it does? My only trouble is what else is there to do that is more meaningful? You mention your family and not seeing them enough. Believe me even if you had means to stayed at home with your wife and kids all the time you'd have a different perspective.

Advertising sucks - client's don't care, and have low expectations - consumers hate ads and see them as invasive at least 90% of advertising.
So do other forms of earning a living.
Bankers - enough said about the myth of money and all the financial sector jobs that don't produce anything.
Doctor's - you would think their work is surely meaningful. Yes and no. One doctor I met in my life has pretty much saved my life. But 90% of others I see on a regular basis don't care, only know how to push new expensive drugs, encouraged by pharmaceutical industry.
Teachers - same as with doctor's, they surely got to do real meaningful work, right? I met 3-4 in my life that I can truly respect and say made a difference in my life. A lot of others were there because it was some job they could get.

My point is this. I am coming to a realization that it's not advertising that is to be blamed, or finance or whatever job profession or industry.
It's specific individuals, what they do, how they do and what motivates them. Another cliche but here it is

An old story tells of three stone masons who were asked what they were doing. The first replied, ‘I am making a living.’ The second said, ‘I am cutting this stone’ The third one looked up at the building and said, ‘I am building a cathedral for God.’

A poignant and moving read, also strangely inspiring and life affirming. Very few typos as well (I won't point them out, it's not my job and I'm sure it was signed off!). Thank you for writing this and hope life is good.

Thank you for saying out loud what everyone in their right-mind deeply thinks but may not have the courage (or be able) to say.

You've made my day. I can now shut down, go home and make sure to be on time to kiss my wife and kid!

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