April 20, 2009

A convenient excuse?

Lately, our clients have been acting a little wacky. And I mean all our clients--on every project, be it ads, DM, web, or the lowly coupon. Our clients are making changes.

But not just any changes.

They're making petty changes. And I mean A LOT of them. And almost all of it is petty six-of-one, half-a-dozen-of-the-other stuff.

What's going on?

Now, clients have always been into changes. They don't like a headline. They're just not that into the picture. They don't get the concept. They don't think this has been explained well or that reflects their brand. And you go back to the drawing board, sometimes swearing, sometimes frustrated, sometimes enlightened. But you get what they want, whether or not you agree.

But now, there's this trend to pull some sort of jigglefest. Say varied instead of diverse. Find a photo of a girl with bangs. Change the man's name from Frank to Harry. Sometimes clients send us a brand new copydeck, or--a first for us, but true--a new layout. Other times they send the results of their photo searches.

I cannot, dear client, dear people who help pay my mortgage, guess what phrasing you'd like better. What word you'd prefer. What colour t-shirt you'd like the guy in the photo to have. All I can do is understand your product, your brand, your voice, and ensure that every concept and every line of copy does the job it's set out to do--sell. But it's got to have rhythm. It's got to have flow. And, I promise you, every word, every picture is a part of a puzzle, carefully chosen for its beat. I have spent many a time looking for a 3-syllabled word that will fit just so. Advertising is seductive music. We compose this stuff. The AD and I start with a brief and a blank slate and we tune the instruments and test out the score until we get it just right.

So what's with the jiggling all of a sudden?

Here's how a coworker put it: It's the fault of the economic crisis.

You have a job, see. And maybe your coworker doesn't anymore. Maybe your budget's been slashed. Perhaps you're a little worried. Or the vibe in the office isn't good. And you're looking at the totem pole and you're finding yourself near the bottom.

Except, of course, there's the agency. The people you give mandates to. The people whose work you get to look at, and critique, and show around the office, and present to your boss. And maybe you think, this is it. This is where I need to show I'm needed. This is where I can give ample input and prove my worth. And so you get out the red pen, and wonder where to start. And when you're done you do the rounds of the office, sighing here and pointing there, showing how the agency doesn't have it quite right, see. This word should go there. This picture isn't red enough. Tsk, tsk.

And it comes back to us. And suddenly the rhythm is gone. The beat is buried. And there is no room for argument, just this slashed mess of a page, this eyesore. And we complain, as we have for a hundred years, but now there's no logic, no way to learn, no drawing board to go back to.

There's just somebody else's desperation on the page.

Back in the 80s, computers turned everyone into a copywriter. Then software came along that's turning everyone into an Art Director. And pretty soon some smart-cookie client will add 2 and 2 and discover that everyone's an advertiser.

Lord help us all.


  1. I think a lot of what you might be seeing could also be some of the following.

    1)When people look around and there is a bustle, they want to blend in so as not to attract attention to themselves. It's basically trying to look busy, or they will give you more work or question your current value.

    2)In the ocean sitting still for a small fish makes you easy prey. Basic instinct:KEEP MOVING

    3)When you don't know what you should be doing, do anything. When I have to write a report or something, putting down the first words usually gets momentum going.

    Everyone has someone to account to: Dept Head, CEO's, Shareholders etc, so when things are not great and change is expected, a little tweak here or there looks like effort. You can say your trying, not sure about the person in the next cubicle listening to their Ipod or blogging during work. (lol)

    Little tweaks and changes when the issues are great are desperate acts from cowards I believe. Like I've seen quoted around on someone's blog "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results"(Einstein?)

    Drastic times call for stronger action and those willing to stick their neck out a little farther then the rest will inherit the work from the casualties who just filled their day, tweaking the non important and just looking busy.

    Just wait for the ArmChair Art Dirctors or Copywriters waiting for the failed attempts to then start critiquing and chirping in. "I told Bob the T-shirt should have been red, but he didnt listen and the campaign failed."

    I'm probably one of the those, sad to say.

  2. "Desperate acts from cowards"--I like that. It's exactly how it feels, too.

    Don't get me wrong on armchair advertisers. Everyone has an opinion, everyone needs to learn, and concepts should open up conversations. And sometimes changing the t-shirt colour is exactly what the concept needs (actually happened to us this week, and the concept fit with the branding that much better).

    It's the do-it-yourself armchair people that scare me. It's like me banging away with a wrench on a broken car engine. I mean, I know how to drive, I can start the thing and make it go, but I know bubkus about the internal workings of the thing. I leave that to the experts and buy the finished product.