Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#012 In which our hero pisses and moans.

Briefly, here's how the advertising business works, agency-wise: the client wants something to happen (which is always, without exception "sell more of my product." Doesn't matter if the product is shoes or box-cutters or the Republican party. Sell more of it.) The client communicates this desire to their agency via the Account Executive (with whom, I have a big problem. But more on that later). The AE comes back to the office and communicates the client's desire to the Creative Director. Finally, the CD communicates the desire to the actual creative team, which may be the copywriter and the art directors or sometimes, just the copywriter.

As an aside, isn't "art director" a misleading title? In any other industry a "director" level title would mean you're somewhere near the top of the food chain... and even in the same agency you can have "art director" (low level title) and, say, Human Resources Director (extremely high level title). I've often called them "graphic designers" which seems more fitting, but for some reason is taken as an insult. You could also just call them "artists," which I refuse to on the grounds that it sounds pompous and arrogant. Then again, that might just be that no-one EVER calls a copywriter an "artist." Anyway.

The big flaw in the advertising communication process, if it isn't already obvious, is that the people doing the actual work are getting their information second- or third-hand. I rarely hear what the client wants, I hear the AE's interpretation of what the client wants. And even more often, I hear the CD's interpretation of the AE's interpretation of what the client wants.

Now, in an ideal world, the AE would be so in tune with the client that they could provide relevant, goal-focused direction that helps me, and the designers, do our jobs. But of course, we don't live in an ideal world.

Too often the input is slapdash or vague, or at times completely irrelevant to the project at hand. And this leads to my biggest problem with the advertising world:

Account Executives get paid commission.

So they take home a percentage of all the work that gets billed. Doesn't matter if they sat in on every creative meeting, gave suggestions and client insight OR if they passed a hastily scribbled set of instructions to the CD then didn't show their face until the job was done... they still get paid the same.

I don't get paid commission. I get paid the same regardless of how long it takes. Sometimes the ideas come easy and I bang out beautiful, fully-realized copy in one sitting. Other times it's a painful process in which the ideas are slowly pulled out of my head, like a tapeworm unwilling to give up its host. This may involved hours and hours of writing, revisions, consultations with the CD and designers, working weekends... whatever it takes. This isn't the part I'm bitching about really, that's the job and I know it and -more importantly - I love it. But what I hate is that at the end of the day the AE gets to be the hero, and worse, gets rewarded for the work. Work that they may have had very little to do with.

Advertising is all about the big idea. "Just Do It." "We're #2, So We Try Harder." "Think Different." Those are the big ideas. And, as we all know, you can't attach a price tag to an idea.

That is, unless you're an Account Executive.


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