"I wonder what Adam Smith would make of this..."

"I wonder what Adam Smith would make of this..."

What’s wrong with advertising these days? Advertising people. You grab a chair, I’ll grab a soapbox, let’s bitch this thing out.

I recently met with an art director with about eight years experience tugging down a small fortune in salary.

He took me through his book of nicely laminated ads and while he had some tasty things, well over half of what he was showing was fake ‘joy pop’ ads–– ads whose whole purpose was to snag awards.

The guy did these ads at big name agencies that actually spend a small fortune in time and salary costs to chase awards for chest thumping purposes. Imagine that, big time professional ad agencies playing make believe in hopes of winning some shiny trophies that prove to the world they are CREATIVE, dagnabbit!

Outrageous. Pathetic. Shameful.

Is it this guy’s fault he’s been showered with money for demonstrating his creativity for essentially phony ads? Hell no. He’s just playing the game. He’s a junkie, hooked on the goof of award shows and agencies that’ll drop their drawers to win them. He produces the work, snags some awards and steps up to the cashier’s window and another agency ups his ante.

But he’s not worth much to me–– certainly not his current high salary.

The beautiful thing about advertising is it’s a true free market. You’re worth whatever you can get. If someone else thinks this game of fakery is worth big geeters, they’ll pay it. But to me, if there’s any justice out there, this guy is headed to a healthy market adjustment to his salary. His stock will be downgraded until he can prove he can work with live ammo on real business problems. And when he can suffer through the rigamarole you sometimes encounter (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kU9YeOQm3Y0).

But then again, maybe not. Maybe he can just keep climbing the salary curve doing what he’s done.

I’ve seen it time and time again: creative people who play the game and are rewarded. People who have work whose sole purpose is to get the next job. Ads not for clients but for creatives.

And so it goes. Ours is one of the few professions where such a thing could exist. Lawyers don’t do this. Engineers don’t. Other professions wouldn’t dream of rewarding work that was basically make believe. But we do. Some of us do. Too damn many of us do.

Let’s be adult and professional and prove our worth on real assignments for paying clients. I’d much rather see rejected ideas for real client projects than phony ads created to cop an award. Be up front about it. This is a subjective business. If it was a real assignment for a real client and you had a terrific idea that the rest of the world ignored or rejected, show it, stand tall and make your case on the interview.

Don’t succumb to the fake ad game. Students have to do this, professionals shouldn’t.

With the game being played by alleged serious professionals, is it any wonder we have a hard time getting paying clients to trust us?

I’ll now dismount the soapbox. I have some real work to do.