Monday, February 8, 2010

He Works Hard for the Money

For as long as I've been working -- and basically, I've been working since I had a paper route at the age of nine -- I've heard people say it: do what you love, and the money will follow. Supposedly all these people you see gobbling lunch in sandwich shops at noon are doing what they love, in whatever back offices and reconverted lofts they're doing it in, and the money just flows in. Frankly, most of them don't look that happy, and it's hard to believe anyone's idea of workday bliss is filling out Human Resource forms or answering emails. But in my case, I chose a career based on an impression I got about the same time that I had that paper route. It was of Darrin Stevens in Bewitched, a sort of precursor to Mad Men with all of the drinking, none of the sex, and a large dose of witchcraft. Advertising seemed creative, and interesting, and fun. And for a while it was, because companies usually employed one agency to handle all their marketing needs: radio, TV, billboard, print. It was a crazy, creative business, full of excesses and constantly veering out of control, but it also held variety because of the need for marketing integration. You might be working on a magazine ad that was tied in to a radio campaign that was reflected on billboards beside the freeway. You spent time visiting (and wining and dining) clients, casting talent for commercials and print ads, recording voice-overs for radio spots, and filming TV commercials, often on location. No matter how screwed up the project went, or how insane the client was, you came away with a vague sense of accomplishment in the face of chaos. But with the rise of the Internet -- which, let's face it, has ruined everything, from dating to human interaction itself -- suddenly there were these supposed specialists in online advertising, the new frontier. And all the work got fractured and parceled out and suddenly there were a bunch of people crowded around a computer monitor saying, "Why are there so many words? Do there have to be so many words?" And marketing writing became more like character counting -- the message had to fit in the frame like never before.

The way this surge in technology impacted an entire industry is something unknown in the long human history of endeavor for pay. If you were a cobbler in the 16th century, you could pretty much work your entire career without having to incorporate emerging technological advances into your craft. If you were a chimney swift in Victorian London, all you needed was a few new brooms every few years. But who could have foreseen the introduction of an entire new marketing medium -- one that we, admittedly, still haven't completely figured out how to utilize? My unspoiled nine-year-old self, flinging rolled-up newspapers onto porches, was looking ahead to jet packs and flying cars. He never thought to worry about banner ads and landing pages.

No comments:

Post a Comment