Thursday, January 17, 2013

Advertising is a team sport.

I grew up in a Catholic school run by nuns who often told us about their "calling". I didn't know if one day they encountered a burning bush, heard a deep voice in a dream, or saw a light leading them to eternal celibacy. But they were certain that this was the life they were called to.

We are definitely not saints but sometimes it feels like advertising is also a vocation. This is the life we were called to, and there is no rest. We battle mental blocks to make even the tightest leadtimes. We slave away over abstract mental models and ideas until they turn into more concrete propositions, storyboards, status updates, wireframes. We put on our smartest and most smashing shows in the hope that clients will be able to envision what only really exists in our heads. Sometimes we hit it out of the park. Many times we get shut down. It isn't showbiz but there is a lot of rejection. And for some reason we're willing to miss breakfast, lunch, dinner, and stay til 10 pm, midnight, sunrise. We stick it out despite the waves of depression that settle over us when we compare compensation with contemporaries in banks, real estate, client side. An advertiser's life is tough, hard, heartbreaking. Yet it feels like working anywhere even slightly more corporate would be selling out. Even in planning it feels like we have creative muscles that need to be stretched. It feels like nowhere else would we be as fulfilled, so we stick with it.

Given this level of commitment, it is scary that we need to be able to count on a wealth of other people to get the job done. Did your account guys understand the client? Is the planner going to find a good problem, insight, solution? Are the creatives going to be clear and clever, solid yet fresh? Do you have anyone to optimize those low CTRs? We collectively try to come up with and execute work that breaks ground but there is a lot that can go wrong. No one person or team can run the show, but for a job this tough, it can be tough to have to count on a wealth of other people to fly.

The other thing about agency life is the high turnover. Because it is so back-breaking, it is almost impossible to stay at the top of your game - clients change, budgets shrink and most of all, people move around. Our team has been through a lot - we've lost in good ways and sad but we've arrived at some kind of synergistic whole that really seems to work for us. We get to do pretty great work, we laugh often, drink together a lot and our internal network is chock-full of internal memes-slash-jokes. In advertising they say you're only as good as your last idea. Maybe you're only as good as the team you're on.

I don't know how long any of this will last but for now I am humbled and thankful. Advertising is a team sport. And for today I'm on the best one.


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