Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Work In Advertising

Often, people write in to me with their hands, begging to know what it is that I do during the day. I do not say much. The answer is not what I wish it were (i.e., "I am non-working"); usually I say, "I work in an advertising agency", because that is what I do.

Often that is enough and the people stop talking to me, leaving me alone to snack from the capacious cheeseboard that is the inevitable feature of any social gathering nowadays, but sometimes they say, "Oh, do you write the adverts then?", and I say, "No, I do not write the ads*", and then they say, "are you an Account Execketiff?", and I say, for there is no point trying to explain, "yes, something like that".

Then they start talking and I start thinking about death. Usually the topics are as follows:

"Obviously I don't work in the business but let me tell you what I think about all the ads currently on telly, because I am a consumer and therefore my opinion is very important."

 I do not try and explain the notion of "targeting" to these people as they just cross their arms in a self-congratulatory style and say, again, "Yes, but ultimately, we're all consumers, aren't we?", even if they are a 49 year old accountant from Shrewsbury slagging off an ad for a mobile telephone designed for 23 year olds.

"I tell you what my favourite ad is ... "

It is usually something from the 1980s featuring a ghastly 'jingle', or one of the following:

- famous music (e.g. the Hovis ad)
- cartoon animals (e.g. Creature Comfort HeatElectric ads)
- someone famous (e.g. Cinzano)
- something with child in it.

I am glad you like the ad you like, and I am glad that you care enough to remember it,  but do not assume I want to hear about it.  (And yes, I probably have seen it already.)

"I don't know how you can live with yourself. Advertising is morally wrong."

Oh grow up.

I will listen to you if you can prove that you do not expose yourself to, or enjoy anything that is funded by, advertising - e.g. newspapers, magazines, most TV, most free digital content.

"I am going to tell you a really good idea I had for an advert once. I can't believe they didn't make it, but I won't be surprised if they use it one day."

Interesting fact: whether you agree with it morally or not, coming up with advertising ideas that do what they're supposed to, i.e. sell stuff, is fucking difficult and very, very few people can do it well. Your idea is probably not very good, otherwise you would be wearing questionable trousers and sitting in an office in Soho earning a million pounds a year.

"Most advertising on the telly these days is shit ."


"The Dove campaign is a cynical marketing ploy brought to you by the company that make Lynx, and it is hypocritical in the extreme."

True. But also false. Sort of.

"You must have moral doubts about what you do."

Not really. Not moral ones. I don't think what I do is very useful or important in the grand scheme of things, but I enjoy it. When I'm not working with idiots.

"Advertisers should stop spending money on advertising and, like, invest it back in the business or give it back to shareholders or something."

Do you own any kind of share-based savings or pension plan?
Do you know how businesses are valued?
So you know the difference between a tangible and an intangible asset, then?
Well shut the fuck up then.

"Ads interrupt everything and are really annoying."


And with that, have a monkey:

And if you don't like that, how about a live pet seahorse with shell for only $1?

And if you don't like THAT, how about this?

(Could you see the ladies? I couldn't, but I could hear them.)

* How to tell if someone who works in advertising knows that they're talking about: rank amateurs call them 'adverts'; those that reckon they know what they are doing call them 'ads'. In North America, they call them 'spots' (when talking about television commercials). No-one else gives a fuck.


Icy Mt. said...

"That's not on." Ahhh, Monkey, you've given me a stitch, you wicked, wicked Monkey.


So good, that monkey. So good. That is my favourite. "That's not ON, monkey."

Salvadore Vincent said...

That is very useful as I am trying to compile a list of what not to say to people when you hear in a social situation what they do for a living. Mainly by irritating things that people have said to me, or faux pas that I have made to other people. So far I have:

Doctor - anything where you try to get an immediate diagnosis such as "Could you look at my rash now?"

Lawyer - see above, but trying to get free legal advice, eg "A lawyer? That's interesting. You know, I've actually got a problem with my neighbour's fence..."

IT - "I'm having problems with my broadband" or "I'm thinking of buying a new laptop - what sort should I get?"

Comedy writer - "Tell us a joke".

However, there are some professions, such as quantity surveyor, where I have not yet even identified the wrong thing to say, let alone the right thing, as I don't really know what they do. Perhaps your readers could help me?

Z said...

I never ask people what they do for a living, unless they or I are at work and it's relevant. It's not a subject for a social conversation unless you know the person concerned very well and actually have some faint interest in their day-to-day life.

Mostly, people who ask that question are trying to gauge how much you earn and how far up the corporate ladder you are.

Waffle said...

I am a lawyer and don't mind if someone asks me about their neighbour's hedge. I don't like it when they punch me in the face with their massive cocktail rings though.

Anonymous said...

Oh, don't get me started. Ad people, doctors, lawyers: your plights are a gnat's fart compared to mine. It's not like I go to cocktail parties, but when I have no choice but to answer the truth ("veterinarian") to the dreaded job question, only the strongest of constitution can sustain me through the inevitable discourses about Fluffy's elimination habits.

Anonymous said...

Well I think that advertising is morally wrong and a waste of money and my favourite has puppies in it*.

But so what? I work(ed) in computers** and most people hate them. With good reason. I do too. And anyway I know too many interesting people who work in advertising to go around shouting at them about it, I'd lose loads of friends if I did.

*That's not true, my favourites have acrobats in, although it's gettinga bit tiresome that everyone is using them these days. But I still like them. Especially the tiny ones. And I am amazed that there hasn't been any kind of moral outrage at the acrobat farm there must surely be somewhere in the world that is genetically engineering teeny-tiny acrobats.

**Yes, right inside them. I am a genetically-modified tiny-person but shhhh, you'll have people up in arms*** about it all.

***I could do that too, if I wanted. Climb inside pople's arms and fix their broken bits. I am that tiny.

Katy Newton said...

Oh, you work in advertising? I had no idea you were so morally bankrupt. OK that's not true. I knew you were morally bankrupt ages before I knew you worked in advertising.

Lawyers, by the way, tend to get "How can you sleep at night making money defending paedophiles and rapists and murderers?", even if they specialise in tax law.

Katy Newton said...

Cathedral City cheddar is mine, by the way. I only wish they'd do a feature-length one.

Katy Newton said...

Also, this struck something of a chord with my mother, who fondly remembers wearily trying to explain to random party guests that no, she didn't write the adverts, and no, she wasn't an account execketiff, she was an Account Group Director, and what that meant was that she controlled account groups. But then she's an evil twisted blackhearted money-driven monster (ret.), just like you and all your evil advertising cohorts.

Salvadore Vincent said...

Z - Or they have a rash.

Also cellist - "How do you get that under your chin" etc...

Salvadore Vincent said...

Actually, one of my best and oldest friends does something in advertising that is not writing the adverts. But after several years I found that I could not suddenly ask what he did for a living as it might look as though I wasn't listening when he first told me, so when I introduced him to my then new girlfriend she was under strict instructions to find out exactly what it was.

Anyone who says that I dumped one girlfriend and started going out with another one just to get this information is lying.

Z said...

Indeed, Salvadore this is one difficulty about my not asking policy - it means that I never know what someone's job is, even when I've known him or her for years, and by then it's too late to ask.

There was once one fine reply, not long after our baby was born and we took her to a party. The Sage was asked his job and he said he was an auctioneer of antiques. The chap gestured to the 6 week old Weeza and said "that's not an antique. That's a reproduction."

Anonymous said...

Meh. I am a web person type of thing with a large dose of design and a side of marketing and a slender digestive biscuit of programming. I mostly get blank stares and, "oh. So you work on the internets?"

Yes, and I have a special sonic screwdriver that lets me do it.

punxxi said...

i used to work but it was dull so i have given it up . actually i was a respiratory care practitioner, i want to kill every one that says oh you were a nurse.i wasn't didn't they listen? no, cos nobody really gives a &#!%

Kim Velk said...

Hi Nonworking Monkey -
I am a first time reader, just nipping over from Belgian Waffling where you got a big plug today. Quite a roundabout way to get to you, considering we keep an apartment next to the McGill campus (because we sort of half live in Montreal - it's a long story) and we are likely separated by a single degree - in real life, not counting the highly esteemed Jaywalker. I would just love to know how a person such as yourself; i.e., not Canadian, much less French Canadian, wound up non-working in advertising, of all things, in the distinct society? Great post here. I am off to read more.

Dave Shelton said...

When I used to tell people that I was an illustrator they didn't know what one was. When I switched to calling myself a cartoonist people thought I meant I was an animator. Nowadays, mostly, I say that I do "drawing and colouring in" for a living which more or less seems to satisfy without eliciting further enquiry. Result.

Mr Farty said...

If we didn't have ads, there would be no Drumming Gorilla.

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

If you tell people you are a novelist they normally change the subject, as though you had never spoke. I think it's cos they think you are deluded.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin