Sunday, October 01, 2006

You're in advertising? Cool!

Let’s set the record straight. In my 5 years of working in the industry, people have asked me what I do for a living. And every time I tell them that I work in advertising, they always have the same giddy remark. “Cool!”

So to all of you who think landing a job as a copywriter in a prestigious multinational advertising agency is pretty funky, you’re right. To those who think that it’s hip to write TV commercials, print ads and radio spots and then scream at the top of your lungs or in your head when there’s no one around (otherwise you’re a nutjob) “I did that!” every time you see your work on print, hear your ad on the radio or watch your commercial on the boob tube, once again, you are right. And to the curious individuals who presume that a career in advertising is financially rewarding, well, let’s just say you are not mistaken. But if you think that working in the creative department of an ad agency is all glamour, vanity, and hedonistic fun, well, I hate to spoil the party but you’re most definitely wrong missy.

Yeah it’s true that we get to play video games in our own workstations (see, in advertising, that’s what we call cubicles. Cool, huh?), get to surf porn and download mp3s for “inspiration” on our next ad, or get to work and exchange chit chats with famous celebrities during shootings and parties, but that’s just about the fun part. See, unlike boring routine jobs where you work in a cubicle for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week operating the same procedures, making the same calls, meeting the same people or filing the same reports over and over, we do get the chance to walk out of the office, eat free buffets during shoots and hobnob with a lot of people from all walks of life on a fairly “routine” basis. No offense meant, (lower your eyebrows now), my wife works in a bank, and those boring routine stuff is exactly what she complains about day in and day out. All I’m saying is unlike other jobs, ours is a little more flexible, a little more unpredictable, and a little more than the usual. But the thing is, it’s also a little more stressful. Now I’m being polite. Hell, it’s a lot more stressful! It’s true. I wouldn’t write it with an exclamation point if it’s not.

First of all, we have to deal with deadlines. Now, there’s a reason why they call it a “dead” line, simply put, it means that if you don’t reach it, you’re dead. There’s also the fact that we use the right side of the brain more than the left. Accountants, bankers and call center employees use most of their left brain for numbers, speech, and analysis, while we abuse the right. It’s a thinking job, where there’s no formula, no fixed rules nor complicated equations, just a lot of God-given talent and imagination. Some advertising gurus would even attest that advertising creatives are born, not made. You can’t learn to be creative. You have to have “it”, like a supermodel with an X Factor. And knowing that all it takes is to think, imagine, and draw a concept in your brain with a simple brief, a single line of an objective in mind, is like producing a rabbit out of an empty hat. It’s creating something out of nothing. It’s trying to sell an overpriced soap with no unique benefits and make it the preferred brand of mothers in the Philippines. And since we mentioned selling, let’s not forget that the role of an advertising creative doesn’t end with a brilliantly crafted tagline or an eye catching layout. You have to sell it, first, to your peers, then to the client for approval, and ultimately, to the market.

And then, there’s the working schedule. Time is flexible in advertising but only if there’s no “sabit” (that’s adspeak for a deadline). Wanna hunt for some DVDs in Makati Cinema Square after lunch? Go ahead. Want to go straight home after a 4 pm meeting with a client in Ortigas? Bring your bag already. Just make sure that you’re not leaving a deadline for granted. Heck, if you finish your sabit a day ahead and you have nothing to do the morning after, you can oversleep and come in before (or even after) lunch and no one would mind. But come crunch time, you have to be prepared. If the shoot is scheduled on a weekend, kiss your Saturday mall time with the kids goodbye because you’re coming to work. There are even times when we work 48 to 72 hours straight, getting only 3 to 4 hours nap in the office to re-fuel. Working that long, you have to wonder how we handle our love life. Not easy. In fact, I’ve seen to many people, heard too many cases of split-ups around the industry, and I can’t blame their partners. Whether we like it or not, we are married to our jobs, like doctors to his patients and lawyers to his cases. We are fated to miss birthdays, reunions and even Christmas Eves with the family if our jobs get in the way. My boss even jokes that we are worse than whores. At least they get paid more by the hour.

All those hitches aside, life in advertising can be really rewarding. You get to face new challenges on a daily basis, new demands, new barriers that were never there before. And overcoming these obstacles is very fulfilling. It’s what motivates you to push harder and dig deeper to outdo your last performance. Because, in advertising, you’re only as good as your last great ad. And speaking of great ads, there are award-giving bodies that recognize your work where you can create your mark in advertising history. Locally, there’s the Ad Congress or Araw Awards, Creative Guild, and Diwa Awards. And then there’s Cannes, Clio, New York Ad Fest or The One Show, to name a few – a host of international recognition given to the carefully selected few.

Sure, there are a lot of other jobs that are way cooler than advertising. Like that of Hugh Hefner’s or Ron Jeremy’s, or the game testers of Playstation 3. But for now, I cannot think of anything else I’d enjoy doing than copywriting. Ultimately, not long from now (I hope), I would like to move on to commercial filmmaking. Be the one to call the shots (literally and figuratively), and make my mark further in the industry.

So, is working in advertising cool, funky, phat or hip? Most definitely. Do I love my job? Absolutely. Should you join us? Maybe. But then again, wherever you are, always remember that the key to a successful career is not the financial reward, the car plan nor the cash incentives. The single most important thing is that you love what you’re doing. See, you could be a customer care representative, a car salesman, a bank manager or a bookkeeper, but at the end of the day, like all things in life, and however cheesy it may sound, love is all that matters.

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