Watching “Mad Men” can seduce people into thinking that advertising is such an interesting and glamourous profession. Don Draper certainly sexes it up. But the truth is, whoever thinks that the advertising business is glamourous is sadly mistaken.
For one thing, it’s very difficult to explain one’s job to parents and other relatives so that they’ll be impressed. . It’s not an an old school profession, such as that of a doctor, teacher, or lawyer. A copywriter or art director does not set the direction for the brand, they don’t act in the commercials, they don’t shoot it or record them either.
Another thing… Advertising creatives are considered sellouts. Any artist who ventures into peddling his or her talents in advertising agencies seldom get any respect from the people they attended art school or film school with. Any writer uses his or her witty words to sell bath soap or breakfast cereal gets no respect from fellow writers. These people are said to have sold their souls and cheapened their art. The advertising industry is where art goes to die, and its pieces reassembled through the help of money thrown in by big corporations to form some kind of zombified works.
Advertising people are practically zombies themselves, working long hours on campaigns and pitches and whatever else has a client-needs-it-yesterday deadline, and surviving with a minimum of sleep. Their world shrinks to the size of a headline, and every rejection from the almighty Client means it’s back to the drawing board, where there’s no sleep, and sustenance comprises of local Saskatoon pizza or whatever’s available for delivery.
And sure, one might catch a glimpse of modern-day ad people, and they have laptops and PowerMacs and not typewriters and drafting tables, and there are a lot more women writers and artists than there were back in the time that Mad Men is set in. There’s no more smoking in the office, but there are coffee bars and sometimes even a game room, and there might even be pub downstairs.
And should one catch sight of any of the members of this profession having a grand time at some club, it’s because they have to party hard, pretty much because work gets so that you really need to let off steam – a body can only take so much anger and frustration.
There are times, for a fortunate few, wherein talents and efforts are recognized, and one wins a coveted Clio or Cannes award. Or sometimes the award is a bit less classy, such as when clients give their own marketing awards for selling the most detergent or something equally tacky. And for the really really lucky, there are actually monetary and professional rewards to go with the awards
Admittedly, there are a few perks. For example, an ad person might get to hobnob with celebrity endorsers or beautiful models, or work with some photographers or filmmakers who are brilliant and famous, or on their way to becoming famous, or not quite brilliant so you can be blasé about him or her in future conversations with colleagues.