Friday, September 03, 2010

Got Talent?

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I watched a documentary film last night about advertising titled Art & Copy: Inside Advertising's Creative Revolution. It got me all fired up. If you're a fan of Mad Men, and don't know too much about advertising, then this is a perfect supplement. If you're a creative person who has problems with your non-creative boss, then the film will inspire you to be even more creative and take more risks. Warning... it will also leave you with more disdain for the powers to be.

Thanks to Iggy for pointing out the film. I had been wanting to watch it for a while, but never had the chance. Luckily, DiscoSis1 gave me a login to her Netflix account and I was able to stream that flick last night. Nicky was also fascinated with the film and sat down to watch it with me.

Here's the trailer...

The film reminded me why I never wanted to work in advertising, but it reminded me that I took the proper road in life -- the life of a creative person vs. the life of a suit.

At two points in my life, I wore a suit to work everyday. Not just any suit... a Brooks Brothers suit. Yeah, I was pimpin' and stylin' but I felt like a complete fraud and imposter. I looked the part and blended in perfectly, but I was never comfortable. During both tours of duty when I was clad in a suit for 80 hours a week, I longed for a way out. The reason I was there was mainly because I failed as a writer. Well, we all fail every single day (and little did I know that as a writer, you end up failing like 99% of the time), but I failed so badly that I gave up on myself. Once you loose faith in yourself, you're fucked and have to stand in line with the rest of the huddled masses and shovel shit for a living the rest of your existence.

So many different things happened to me in my 20s, that I had zero confidence in myself and my abilities. I was also not as committed to becoming a better writer and artist back then -- partly, because I was one of those poseurs who wanted to be a writer and told people I was a writer, but never did the actual things you need to do to actually become a writer. It was easier to say that I'm playing the part without doing the grunt work. Plus, I really had no idea what I was doing and lacked the direction and tools needed to be a writer. But mostly, I did not have that fire burning inside of me that inspired me to listen to my gut. And it's your gut that helps shapes your voice, well that and all the experiences in your life.

I eventually departed the world of suitdom to pursue the life of a creative person. I'm fortunate that I had the opportunity to work both sides of the fence because I learned valuable lessons about dealing with other business types during the days in the trenches when I had a tie wrapped around my neck. The only difference between a tie and a noose? The tie cost more.

I learned how the suits think. I figured out what drives them and what fears causes them to act like a tyrant or blatantly lie to their employees. I learned that it's not an easy job, but many decide to take shortcuts toward success. You cannot do that as an artist. If you take a short cut as a writer, which I've seen many colleagues do in the plagiarism department, then it's going to be obviously that you're a talentless hack. But if you take those douchey shortcuts as a suit, then give you awards and you get a bonus.

Titles are very important to suits, but a title is not something tangible, like a painting, short story, or song. That's why a suit's pursuit is often misleading and lacks fulfillment. It's also why suits get super jealous at creative types when they get accolades for their work. A suit's work is often overlooked because there is no concrete or material or physical evidence of a job well done.

These days, I run across a suit every now and then who thinks that they can do my job. When I'm feeling feisty, I tell them that we'll take the Pepsi Fucking Challenge and we'll swap jobs. That always pisses them off even more because 1) the suits are usually jealous that they are uncreative, and 2) the suits get ashamed that they can't do a creative job while knowing that a creative type can probably do their job.

In the end, most suits wanted to be creative types, but they weren't talented enough, or mentally tough enough to stomach the brutality of trying to come up with new ideas every single day.

Of course, I'm not talking about all suits and all creative types. But I'm talking about me and the suits in my life. Yeah, I have never been in a position in the last decade when I felt that I could not do the job of a suit who was giving me guff. I might not be able to do as effective a job in the moment, but given a fair amount of time, I'm confident that my abilities are strong enough that I could do an equally good job as said suit. On the flip side, given the proper amount of time, I'm confident that not a single suit can do what I do for a living.

That's a smug statement, but I'm confident in my intelligence and ability to use both sides of my brain -- the right side and the left side. The suits get irritated when you remind them that they are only one-sided. They also get hostile when that realization crystallizes and they figure out that they are not unique like creative types. So when they act like douchebags and try to exert their limited power other creative types, and remind me that I'm expendable, I have to happily remind them that they are truly the 100% expendable ones because I can do both my job and their job. In the end, that versatility is more valuable than their horrible management skills.

I think it was almost two years ago when I last had one of those conversations. The suit was being a stupendous dick and I had to put him in his place. I reminded him that I turned down his job, which is why he got it in the first place. The powers to be wanted to hire me, but I'm not a middle manager. I opted to remain freelance so I could make more money and retain my freedom. Of course, the guy in question got even more pissed and acted like a bigger jerkoff. Which was proof that I made my point. In the end, don't act like you can do my creative job because you can't and don't act so fucking arrogant about your 'awesome job; because I can replace you in a second, but in order to replace me, you need three people.

The best working relationships that I have today are with suits who respect the creative process even though they might have never done that, nor understand what it takes. At the same time, I have the utmost respect for their jobs -- because I used to do it at some point.

At one point in Art & Copy, one of the creative guys was saying how he originally worked at a sweat shop that represented everything wrong in their business. He attempted to start a revolution and wanted the power to fall into the hands of the creative types -- without them, there would be no ads, and without ads companies would make less money and not be able to hire the ad firms to begin with. In essence, they were the true breadwinners and needed to be respected and compensated for their talents.

Most days, I question what I do for a living. After last night, I'm so fucking glad I do what I do.


  1. Michele Lewis12:37 PM

    Good post, thanks for pointing it out.  Although...even tho I knew you were a Wall Street Suit, it was difficult getting Brooks Brothers out of my mind.  My rule: guys should have suits AND converse. 

  2. Michael F.12:54 PM

    Accurate portrayal of the "suit" species and their "working" habits. I think "suits" should get their own phylum/species name like the well-documented "Douchebagius." 

  3. I'll have to see this movie. That line at the end about getting power into the creative types hands doesn't seem to make any sense. I assume he is the one coming up with the ideas for the ads. If there are no ads, no ad companies, or companies hiring ad companies, then he is unemployed and not really creating anything.

  4. Pauly1:21 PM

    Quote is out of context, see the film and you'll agree with what he was saying.

  5. @michaelf i think the "mad men" phylum came a bit before the douchebaggusaur. that animal is unique to 21st century vegas. granted it since has spread to (and thrived in) places like jersey, but really, it came about at the crossroads between poker and mma. think about it ... take the worst qualities of both ... poof, there's the archetype for a douchebag. 

  6. chaz littlejohn1:23 PM

    A suits job is not creative; it is about consistency, repetition, and managing all the dullardly things that go with running a business. Don't be so sure you could do that competently day in and day out.

  7. Pauly2:34 PM

    You just described the details of what I also do for a living (<span>"consistency, repetition, and managing all the dullardly things that go with running a business").</span> So in that regard, I still stand by my statement.