By The Big Guy
Let me tell you a little something about advertising. I’m not talking about local car dealer advertising or local carpet store advertising or pages and pages of department store advertising in the local newspaper (assuming your city still has a local newspaper). I’m talking about big time, network television advertising, TV commercials for the likes of McDonald’s, Kellogg’s cereals, Cadillac and Tide and L’Oreal, the stuff that’s on the TV when you leave the room to go potty. If you work for a big national advertising agency and you’re responsible for this stuff here’s the truth: Any day you don’t get fired, that you don’t get screamed at, that you don’t miss a deadline (no matter how unreasonable), that you don’t die is a good day. And then you get to come back the next day and do it all over again. When they make television shows about advertising agencies the episodes do not end happily. At best, they end with a sigh of relief, because advertising jobs do not come with happy endings. They come with a sense of cheating death.
Advertising agency writers and art directors and creative directors and producers get together and make television commercials by hiring commercial production companies for great sums of money to bring a storyboard to life on behalf of the advertiser. Commercial production is the only discipline in the motion picture slash video slash media industry where the director is not in charge. To this very day it is difficult to determine exactly who is in charge. Each party involved in the making of the commercial has an agenda and is given strict instructions by their superiors back home (because commercials are never made at home). The writer and the art director are instructed not to trust the producer or the commercial director. The producer is told not to trust the commercial director, the writer or the art director. The account executive from the agency whose only job is to take the advertiser’s marketing manager to dinner each night (and maybe golf on the weekend) is told not to trust the writer, the art director, the producer and especially anyone from the commercial production company, even if they get them tickets to Kinky Boots. And the production company’s commercial director doesn’t care what anyone else wants because he is going to film the commercial his way so he can put it on his demo reel and get himself a feature film so he never has to shoot another commercial again.
Despite all of this, in two or three or four weeks time the commercial is completed. Magically (and thanks to an incredibly resourceful producer) the advertiser gets the commercial they wanted, the writer and art director have the storyboard they created brought to life, and the commercial director has his “vision” captured as planned. The advertiser’s marketing manager will use this thirty-second motion picture to leave his lousy beer company and get himself a better marketing job at a disposable diaper company (or vice versa). The writer and art director will use it to get out of their miserable lives in advertising and get the job they really wanted all along creating episodic television shows. Perhaps they will do one about an advertising agency. And when they sell it to a TV network the first call they will make is to that commercial production company director to see if he’d like to direct the pilot. It will be a good day.