By shutterstockchris / /
Jerry Seinfeld is not afraid to bite the hand that feeds him. Accepting a non-specific Clio — probably awarded to ensure he’d turn up — he laid into the ad industry. He touched on those raw nerves that get exposed when we’re at our lowest ebb, at our most cynical. But I’m sorry, you’re only allowed to be that searing in your indictment if you’re one of us — actually in the industry, rather than just taking its dollar once in a while.
Irony, satire, tongue in cheek. I get it. He’s a comedian; he tells jokes for a very good living.
Much of it was true and much of it was funny because it’s true — hell yeah, we all feel we deserve an award for our efforts even if only 30 or so people leave the room with a statuette.
Often’s the time we can laugh at ourselves in retrospect, the sleepless nights over casting or typefaces or strategy. Looking back, it can seem so trivial and inconsequential. But there’s a reason we worry, fret and work our arses off. When all is said and done, advertising does matter — in many ways.
So just in case Jerry’s words have triggered some existential crisis in you, here are just some of those ways.
1. It feeds my family.
It’s the one source of income for my household and if Jerry wants to sneer at the way I put food on my table, I’m not laughing. It may not be as glamorous as being a billionaire comedian or movie star but I work hard and I provide. I’m almost certain my family appreciates this…
2. Clients need us.
Oh how they need us. Imagine a world where clients are left to advertise for themselves. The horror! We’d never get past Guinness Is Good For You. Barry Scott would be held up as the absolute pinnacle.
Agencies have the power to make their clients look good (and if they don’t, the next incumbent can have a go). This isn’t easy. There’s a reason clients outsource.
3. People rely on us.
You can argue about the damage rampant consumerism is wreaking on the planet but marketing undeniably drives sales (people wouldn’t waste their money on it if it didn’t). Sales equals employment. Outside this advertising bubble, other folks have to put food on the table too. Indirectly, those late nights, those leaps of creativity, that 8th draft body copy can have a positive effect.
4. Satellite industries need us.
I’m not taking about Inmarsat, I mean all the attendant industries that surround advertising: illustration, animation, photography, music, model making, coding, lighting, catering even — a big chunk of all these groups rely on the ad industry.
5. Good causes need us.
Let’s hear it for the chuggers and the retired folks rattling tins outside Tesco’s, but occasionally adland gets to take a karma holiday and we do valuable work for charity. Emotive, persuasive marketing campaigns that succeed in coaxing donations out of people for no material reward. No easy task.
6. We should be proud.
The level of craft on show in the best work can put other media to shame, sitcoms included. Not just craft, pride. We want any piece of work with our name on it to be as good as it can be. It takes just as long to produce a turkey as it does to make a timeless classic, so we knuckle down and try to make this one ‘the one’.
7. We do all deserve an award.
With the slings and arrows of outrageous client feedback, iffy planning and slack account handlers, we still manage to squeeze something of merit out into the public domain. Sometimes nobody hates it.
8. The public sometimes likes what we do.
Meerkats, Perfect Day, Sony Balls, Elf Yourself, the Gold Blend couple, Johnny Vegas and Monkey — all things the world of advertising have given the outside world. At its best, advertising can capture or set the mood of the nation. Meet The Superhumans set the tone for the Paralympic Games that followed. It’s all sales messaging, sure, but our skill is in elevating it into something more.
If I’m honest, no piece of mine has made a lasting impact on the fabric of society. And for many of us, that’s still the motivation — to create one last work of noble note.
Fear not. It is a worthwhile pursuit. It does make a difference. What we do works. What starts in your head will be seen, heard and felt by millions through the course of your career. It matters.