Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Onion Unfairly Maligns Us

So The Onion wrote an entertaining story about last week's Omnicom/Publicis deal, headlined 'Merger Of Advertising Giants Brings Together Largest Collection Of People With No Discernible Skills.'

"These two ad behemoths will have the industry’s largest and most formidable talent pool of people called ‘creatives’ who have never created a single thing in their lives," the piece went on.
And we were all amused, in a crying-on-the-inside kinda way. 

But I think they got it wrong.
Granted, most of The Onion is funnier than nearly all ads are. And there's hardly an ad ever made that deserves a spot on the same stage as the best movies, books, paintings, or TV shows. Though a few surely do.

But the fact is we are playing a game that's of a higher order of difficulty to the game played by comedy writers, novelists or film-makers.

Because not only are we attempting to make our work funny, dramatic, or beautiful... but we must also make it a compelling sales message for a brand.

I'd like to see the folks at The Onion try that. Ain't as easy as it looks, fellas.

I mean, just imagine how terrible certain well-known movies would be if they were also ads for brands.

Actually, no need for you to boot up your imagination. Behold once again my amateur Photoshop skills:

First up, a classic tear-jerker if it also had to act as an ad for Philip Morris products.

Brad Pitt in 90-minute commercial for Spanish fashion chain:

Hey Pixar: let's see your guys write a story that's equally engaging as your normal ones, but you only get 30 seconds, and it has to make people want to visit a particular supermarket chain.

In conclusion, we are not worse than the people in other creative industries. If our product often is, that's because we just have a harder job, do we not?


Charles Edward Frith said...

Advertising people are as one memorable boss of mine put it 'wannabe artists'.

I would say they do it on other people's dime.

The Onion more accurately reports reality than the mainstream media.

Anonymous said...

I think you have missed the point. It is not about how hard a job is.

The point is that this entire industry offers nothing absolutely crucial to society.

As opposed to Doctors, Poets, Teachers, Fire Fighters etc... Society would continue to consume things based on NECESSITY if all marketing and advertising were to disappear.

The Onion poses an interesting truth below its satire that would the removal of the entire industry do harm to society (no considering the financial impact and job losses)?

Dan said...

It is tougher, and I often wish my only goal in writing was to be funny, rather than funny (or whatever else) and sell.

But The Onion draft 600 headlines a week and publish about 16 (according to This American Life). How many of us work hard enough to trawl through that much for the truly good ideas?

Actually, 30-50 roughs to produce one good idea sounds about right to me.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting. I sometimes feel like a person of no skills (I'm a creative). But then, I think back to advertising school, and there were some really skilled people in my class. Amazing writers. Artists. Designers. Successful musicians. Business people even. They couldn't do ads for shit, and didn't make it.
For some reason that seems hard to put a finger on, what we do is incredibly difficult.
But in saying that, there are quite a few people I've worked with who appeared to have no discernible skills.

angus said...

quite a few geniuses started out in advertising, did they not?

Anonymous said...

"The point is that this entire industry offers nothing absolutely crucial to society."

That's not necessarily true.

How many times a day do you use Google? Financed by ads.

Facebook? Financed by ads.

The free morning paper on the tube ride to work? Financed by ads.

Not saying that advertising is as important as the work of the fire brigade.

But a lot of "free" things wouldn't actually be free without advertising.

Anonymous said...

You are LOVING the photoshop! It's so easy to start something then you look up and a whole day has gone past.

Scamp said...

So true. I must say, I do find design work wonderfully relaxing. Probably isn't when you have an art director on your shoulder, I guess.

Old CD Guy said...

Actually my dear Scampy, the line in The Onion rant which particularly struck a chord with me was" utterly talentless men and women who are not marketable in any industry other than their own" because it pains me to admit that, certainly in my own case, it's eerily accurate.

After I retired - some might say prematurely - 8 years ago, I realised I don't have a single skill that is useful in the real world. Writing funny 30 second commercial playlets or smashing out a print ad/poster/radio commercial in record time is a very specific skill. Yes, after I grew tired of lying on the beach I wrote the obligatory 'tell-all' memoir but couldn't be bothered publishing it.

So what else can I do? I'm good at keeping my cars gleaming, and do a very passable impersonation of a heavy metal guitarist, but there's not much calling for those 'skills'. Besides, they pay a pittance. I'd rather do nothing and be payed nothing.

But more to the point, after you've climbed the lofty heights of Agencydom, anything else seems incredibly menial and, frankly, beneath me. Would I work in a cafe making coffee? Stand behind the counter in a retail store? I've got the customer-service skills and people-empathy of Basil Fawlty. Could I do something to 'put back'? Drive a community bus? Do volunteer work? Teach?

Fuck that.

Hmm said...

There's a whole generation of young creatives who never actually worked outside of an agency - most have never been to university. So, sounds fair enough.

Scamp said...

Guys, I don't think we deserve to be called talentless, just because our skills are not marketable in other industries. I mean, how many cartoonists could get a job doing something other than drawing cartoons? How many pianists? How many basketball players? Doesn't mean they're talentless.

It does seem unfair though that agency suits are able to get other jobs, in business or whatever, since business skills are more transferable. Whereas we creatives end up on the scrapheap. Or in your case, Old CD Guy, on the beach.

k said...

Also kind of related to this…
Has anyone found a good way to explain to their family and friends what they do?

No matter how many times I tell my family I write ads, they still get me to do their logos. Now I fear they just think I'm a terrible graphic designer.

Scamp said...

When I tell strangers I work in advertising, they tell me about a TV ad they saw the other day. Always a TV ad. As if the other media don't exist.

Mike said...

"And there's hardly an ad ever made that deserves a spot on the same stage as the best movies, books, paintings, or TV shows. Though a few surely do."

They really don't you know.

I think the Onion, among other things, was having a pop at the use if the word 'creative'. This also gets my goat, although not as much as 'rock star' does. I have never experienced an industry as insular and self absorbed as advertising. I guess it has to be that way in order to hold on to people whose main function in life is to persuade people to buy things...

Anonymous said...

Like I give a fuck.

I've no qualifications yet I get paid shed loads and fanny around on the interwebs most of the day.

Well done me!