Jun 17, 2011

"What is it with Ad People and their stress?"

That was the line that hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday. Why?

Because, for the life of me, I could not find a way to answer the question.

Let's start from the beginning. It's simple, I just have a huge muscle pain in my neck from moving some heavy boxes. Well, that's what may have happened - along with other things in my life like too much stress, long hours working and some big changes in my life. I guess it was all too much emotions in a couple of weeks and my body went: Fuck you. Pain started a couple of months ago and when yesterday I couldn't take it any longer, I went to the doc.

So as I was sitting there getting my hit of good old medicine, my doctor started asking me from where did I learn about him. I told him that he treats RestrictionsApply and that he recommended him to me, that we used to work together and that we were great friends, yada yada yada. Oh, he said, what do you do? Advertising.

And then he asked the question: why is it that all of you ad people have so much stress?

As I sat there with a needle going in my back, I was more in pain with the fact that I could not answer him right away than the injection. I could not, for the life of me, tell him a decent reason. I vaguely answered that we work under limited time - but honestly, that is a shit excuse. He laughed, told me that stress usually manifests itself in sickness and strained muscles, that I needed to chill and that he would see me in two weeks. Great. Wonderful. Now I feel great but confused.

I went home and asked my boyfriend the same question. He also works in advertising and, you guessed it, he could not really find a decent answer. He voted for the "it's the bosses and clients' fault" - and he also knew that it was not a decent reason.

We sat there in silence. We don't know why ad people have so much stress. In fact, we do know some of the causes, but it's all bullshit:

• We have a small amount of time to do the creative.
Sure, why not. But sometimes we do have quite a lot of days to do our jobs. Maybe it's the fact that we're fucking around with our toys and watching some idiotic videos in YouTube and THEN we have a small amount of time to do our shit.

• Our clients demand too much out of us.
Who doesn't demand a lot from any person in the world? A patient demands his doctor to treat and save his or her life, for God's sake! How in the world can we actually say this without shame? They demand a lot because it's completely normal!

• Creative work is usually a mental exercise, therefore we drain ourselves.
Come the fuck on. Being an engineer is exactly the same. Christ, even working in Burger King demands some sort of thought process. Telling people that we have to think way more than any other profession is a turd of an excuse.

• If we make a mistake, it costs a lot of money.
Yeah. Sure. Great! Try comparing your job, your average stupid job of making a tv ad, a print ad or a boring radio spot to this: try to operate on a man who has cancer and try not to make a mistake - or you will KILL HIM. Ok kiddies, listen up: there is NO TYPO that compares in cost to losing a life. So... another shit line down the drain.

If you really think about it, and I mean just take a breather, sit down and try to explain in a decent manner that actually makes sense to someone that doesn't know crap about this industry why the freaking fuck are we so stressed out all the time.

I mean. For what? What can possibly be so stressful about making a print ad? Does life in this world depend on this full page full color? No, man! And it's the same for any other campaign! Why are we thinking that the world depends on our creativity or why do we channel all our energy to the point of sickness to this really normal job we call advertising?

It's just an ad!!!! What is wrong with us??????????

Much love from a very confused Me.


Joker said...

It's a tricky question not because we can't come up with an answer, but because there are a series of answers which are interrelated and clash with each other to produce physical ailments and whatnot. Here's my take on it.

It all starts with answering the question of what we do for a living. No other profession that I know of requires as much explaining and justification as advertising and when we see the reaction on people's faces, well, we don't feel all that great.

Then you add to the list that regardless of our profession we want to do a good job. It's universal to want to do a good job, the trick is that in advertising, you have to please a long series of people just to see if your ad gets out in the open and then see if it works. The logistics are all fucked up because we are measured by results we can't control. So apart from shame, there's that sense of no control that really fucks with us.

Third on the list is that in theory advertising is a fantastic job. It's fun, carefree and allows you to have a creative life. In practice it is anything but what was mentioned in the brochure. So there you have regret.

As for not having time? Well we don't have time because of asshole clients or douche CEOs that throw sand in the gears. So add to that a good dose of frustration.

So after you put those ingredients into the cocktail, take into account that most people you know in advertising have a good idea of what they really want to do with their lives and that they're just doing advertising "in the meantime".

So you add lying to yourself to the equation.

Truth be told, there are definitely worse jobs than advertising. But think of an ad job like a food ad... it looks delicious, it promises to change your life, it's sexy and dangerous and there's sex and drugs and a rockstar lifestyle.... and then you start working and you realize you were duped...

I dunno, that could be it but good food for thought.

TiredCreative said...

I find that 70% of the stress is created because the people hiring us, whether it's the CEO, the Executive CD, or the clients, react to any error, however minor, like it's the end of the world. I don't know about at your agency, but at mine (my former, I'm gone, and honestly thinking about quitting the business for good), one broken link on a website precipitates panicked, angry phone calls from the client at 4 o'clock in the freaking morning.

The general attitude is "We're charging/spending a lot of money for you stupid creatives to play with pictures, which the rest of the world views as highly irrelevant, so it'd better be perfect."

As a woman in the industry, as well, the subtle and blatant sexism both add to the stress. I have been denied basic work materials while my male counterparts (and subordinates!) received them in triplicate. I've had men on the same level as me try to act like my boss, and when I (and my co-workers) told them "No you may not," they persisted, and it was just fine, because they're in the Old Boys Network. I have also had the pleasure of watching a man's name being put on an award I won! Men are viewed as inherently creative, funny, witty, whatever...women are viewed in this industry as...kinda in the way.

Finally, the other 30% of it is inept Account Executives. Jay-sus. If you add up all the time they spend either sitting on a job so you have to slap it together in miracle-worker time, or not following up with a client so something that should've had a two-week timeline needs to be done in three days, or simply giving me stupid-crazy deadlines without ever negotiating with the client (because EVERYTHING is an emergency), you'd have the rest of the stress right there.

Why am I even remotely considering staying in this field? I dunno...because I can make cool stuff and wear "whatever" to work. But I've also learned that the higher you climb in the agency, the less chance you get to do even those two things.

I'm considering paying my bills with phone sex. And that's no joke. It's got all of the sexual harassment and creativity of advertising, but I can do it from home and make my own hours. Failing that, I could rob a bank, like that middle-aged man did, for the healthcare.

TiredCreative said...

Oh, and I'll add to that, poor time management. My pie chart is full, so I don't know what percentage of stress poor time management contributes, but it's a damn domino effect, and it starts with the client.

1. Client demands something with an impossible timeline.
2. AE, scared of the client, accepts.
3. Traffic Manager, knowing the job is impossible anyway, sits on scheduling it.
4. Creative team sits on it further because they're panicking about how they're going to get 3 print ads and 2 radio spots banged out before 6 p.m.
5. Creative Director sits on signing off on creative because s/he has his/her own schedule and will get around to it whenever s/he feels like it.
6. Creative team stays late for the 40th night in a row because the ads aren't signed off yet.
7. Client requests 40 jillion rounds of revisions. Due IMMEDIATELY.
(Sometimes) 8. Client "takes back" half of those revisions. "On second thought, I liked your previous version better." Or, worse yet, "Let's combine my revisions with your original idea and create a hodgepodge of fuckery! It looks ugly, it sounds ugly, but I am the client!"

Rinse, repeat. Sound familiar? Hope so, 'cause this has been the story in every agency in my experience!

Anonymous said...

I've been asking myself this question for years.
The best answer I've come up with is that it's the lack of control we have in our jobs. As Joker & TiredCreative said, we're at the mercy of everyone one else's time, priorities, moods, mom's opinion. etc.
I think the thing I find the most amusing (or crazy) is that we're told that our job is not a big deal ("we're not saving the world here") but yet everything is an emergency or super-urgent or that typo will result in us losing the account!!!

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