Friday, 8 April 2016

08/04/16 - Ten Years!

Last week I celebrated my tenth year of working in advertising. Or, more specifically, ten successful years without being found out. Seriously, I have no idea what any of these people are doing, but I’ve somehow managed to fly under the radar thus far and apparently I now get a free pen. Not bad, is it, this advertising lark?
So, how does one thrive in this industry? Well, I’ve got some handy hints and tips for you below… but first, here’s what not to do – a selection of things that I didn’t get fired for, but probably only just:

Got drunk and forgot to come to work
This was only my third day of working here, actually. I joined the agency in the halcyon days of endless free lunches, free-flowing taxi accounts, and all manner of cash-splashing profligacy. All very different to the agency of today.
The secretaries and PAs invited me on a freebie team lunch – I forget the occasion, it may just have been that it was a Wednesday – at a local tapas restaurant, which no longer exists because we no longer send huge delegates there to get smashed every lunchtime.
They gave me lots of wine. I was young and carefree and happy to accept. It wasn’t until about 5pm that I eventually remembered to come back to work.
My new boss may have been rethinking a few decisions at this point.

Stole the MD’s car
The big cheese is a stallion of a man. Without his filthy mouth and questionable moral outlook, the agency would be a very different place. His decent nature is almost certainly the reason I didn’t get fired when one day, for some reason, I stole his car – along with an anonymous accomplice – and parked it somewhere he couldn’t find it.
It was a lovely thing. Porsche 911 Turbo, 996-generation. Easy to steal, too.

Climbed drunkenly over the fence on a weekly basis
This isn’t so much naughty as just stupid. Back when I joined in 2006, the office bar was the place to be. Every Thursday and Friday night it was rammed – the culture was such that it was weird if you weren’t there, it was just what people did. It was a much more social atmos, everyone knew who everyone else was. Ah well, times change.
Anyway, the gate to exit the complex is quite tall and very heavy. In the daytime there’s always a security guard there to open it for you (unless it’s raining and they can’t be arsed, in which case they just sit in their little hut and watch you do it, despite the fact that opening the gate is THEIR ENTIRE FUCKING JOB), but at night-time you have to open it yourself. There’s a button on the wall to release it. I did not find this button until I’d been working here for probably about a year. I just used to climb over the gate.
Given that I was drunk every time I did this, it didn’t occur to me that there might be a simpler way. Also, the top of the gate has been painted with grease to stop people climbing it, so I fell off a lot.
There are probably still CCTV files on me in the gatehouse.

Ran an anonymous blog sharing various amusing internal emails
Yeah, in hindsight there was no way that was a good idea. Fucking idiot.

Cuntgate
JuicyPips used to be an all-staff email. Nowadays, at the request of HR, it’s an opt-in thing. You only receive it if you’ve asked to do so. Why? Because once I used the word ‘cunt’ and someone complained to HR.
To be honest, I’d used that word numerous times before in JuicyPips (only when it was artistically justified, natch) but this occasion was clearly the straw that broke that particular person’s camel’s back.
To put it in context, I was describing a person in this Envirofone ad from 2009 – the man who says ‘wonga’. I stand by my analysis.

Boobgate
Oh, dear. This was unfortunate.
There was a photo booth at the Christmas party one year. Some of the ladies of the agency flashed their shirt-potatoes in the booth, unaware that all the photos taken would be emailed around the agency the next day. When said email arrived, I forwarded it on to a select group of colleagues with an amused ‘Hey look, there’s boobs on page [x]. Oh, and again on page [y].’ It was very post-modern, I was lampooning modern laddishness by holding up a sarcastic mirror to their reprehensible misogyny. Or something. Anyway, one of said people forwarded it back around to everyone in the building, which made me look like a right dick. Which, frankly, I kinda was. Still, if it helps to justify it, I was quite hung over.


So if you do find yourself with an HR file thick enough to stuff a decent-sized mattress, here’s what you need to do to survive in advertising:

Say the word ‘strategy’ a lot
This seems to be very important. No-one gives a fuck what it means – if, indeed, it means anything at all – but it’s vitally important to be seen to have a strategy. Or, at least, to be talking about one.
Be sure to play around with ‘strategise’, as well as attempting the awful ‘stratify’, and deploying the hideous contraction ‘strat’.

Use horrible made-up words like ‘learnings’
Again, a lot of importance is placed on talking like a mindless illiterate. It’s ever so important to ‘share your learnings’, even if it does make everybody want to punch you in the head, you fucking idiot.

Don’t turn up on Fridays
Apparently this is OK.
I’m always here on Fridays, I’ve got shit to do. But no-one else is, it’s like the Marie Celeste. They can’t all be on a four-day week, can they? How are they getting away with it? I guess if everyone’s out of the office, no-one’s there to tell them off. Interesting.
(I say ‘I’ve got shit to do’ – I generally spend Fridays nosing around in people’s desk drawers, skateboarding naked up and down the corridors, and leaving unsavoury substances in the water dispenser tanks.)

Massively overuse the phrase ‘going forward’ (or ‘moving forward’)
This irritates the hell out of me, but apparently it’s a necessary cog in the advertising machine. You’re never just coming up with an idea, it has to be ‘the idea going forward’. If you ever mention something that’s going to happen in the future, it’s mandatory to explain it as ‘moving forward, we’d like to do this…’
Try and slip it into every sentence, people will assume you’re a pro.

Work late, even though you don’t need to
I fell into this trap early on – I went through a phase of arriving at the office at 7am and working through to 7 or 8pm. For months. It was exhausting! Because working hours are an arms race. If you’re the one who’s always in the office, perhaps you won’t be first against the wall when the redundancies come. Self-preservation, yeah?
(I don’t do this any more. I’m out of the door at bang-on 5:15 every day, as per my contract, which inevitably always leads to some berk in the lift saying ‘hur hur, leaving early are we?’ No. No, I’m not. I’ve done a day’s work, and now it’s home-time. Stop showing off about how hard you’re working, no-one’s impressed. Dick.)

Huff and puff a lot
Further to the above, you’ll do yourself a lot of favours by creating the appearance of being busy. If you’re always a bit frazzled and worked-up, you’re probably indispensable, right? So when you’re waiting at the printer for something to pop out of the slot, or tapping your toes as you wait for the elevator to come, or just making a cup of tea in the kitchen, be sure to huff and puff impatiently throughout. Your time is invaluable, and everyone needs to appreciate that. Constant, aggressive exhalation will let everybody know.

Walk everywhere quickly, holding a piece of paper
Similarly, striding briskly through the office will reinforce the point that you’re very busy and important. If you’re holding a piece of paper (and it can be any piece of paper, no-one will look at it), it’s probably something vital that you need to get to somebody else without delay.
Be sure to always be too busy to talk to anyone as well – even if you’re travelling down a few floors in the lift with somebody (which is a finite period of time, in which it makes absolutely no difference whether you’re chatty or not). Just spend your time exaggeratedly looking at your watch every three seconds and quietly muttering ‘comeoncomeoncomeon’.

Refer to a PowerPoint presentation as ‘a deck’
Everybody in advertising does this. Nobody else in the world does. It’s just one of those mysteries.

Complain about business travel
You get to fly at 500mph in a colossal metal bird, for free, then stay in a foreign hotel, again for free. Imagine what your teenage self would have made of that idea.
But no, it’s awful.

Don’t be ashamed to reel out the clichés
Oh, there’s a lot of this. You’ll hear phrases like ‘outside the box’ and ‘blue sky thinking’ on a daily basis, along with pseudo-ironic variants like ‘let’s blue sky this’. Incredibly, ‘grasp the low-hanging fruit’ actually gets a regular airing too, along with the repulsive ‘hearts and minds’. The more you cheese it up, the more you’ll sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Say weird phrases with such confidence that everyone assumes they should know what it means and thus never question it
What do you think a ‘tissue meeting’ is?
Nope, me neither. Nobody knows. But a lot of them happen, and you’re not allowed to question it because everyone else will assume that you’re not as good at advertising as they are, despite not knowing themselves. It’s a sort of test.
Tissue meetings are generally just rooms full of people uneasily eyeing each other up to see who’ll crack first.

Act like you’re in Nathan Barley, in a totally brazen and unselfconscious manner
This is particularly important if you work in digital, social, or any other adjective that the industry insists on using as a noun. Wear a suit jacket over a t-shirt. Have at least two phones on you at any given time. Reel off a lot of pithy comments about the state of Apple Corp that you’ve stolen from Wired magazine. Make sure that your legs are half-business-half-pleasure (in either combination – pinstripe trousers with Converse All-Stars, or skinny jeans with patent leather shoes). Directly quote Nathan Barley – ‘well Jackson’, ‘totally fucking Mexico’, etc – in an attempt to create an impression of irony. Fill your office with novelty items you’ve stolen from shoots. Wear sunglasses indoors.

Drop acronyms willy-nilly
Acronyms are the lifeblood of the industry. On your first day, if you’re lucky, someone will kindly explain the difference between ATL and BTL… if they don’t, you’ll be immediately baffled by the sheer volume of mentions.
You’ll be needing B2B and B2C of course, that’s basic stuff. And then there’s CPL, POS, SME, DRTV, WoM, CTR, MPS, AIDA, CAB, DAGMAR… it’s all BS, of course, but necessary.

See? It’s easy. I’ve been here this long and nobody’s noticed that I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. They’ll read this and assume that I’m joking too. (And this. [And this.]) Oh, what a gloriously absurd carnival this industry is.





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