Why I Quit

After 10 years in the ad biz, I’m out. Done. Leaving on top (or at least while I’m still young). Maybe I’ll turn Jordan—make anutha run in a few years, but don’t hold ya’ breath.

I went from the streets to the suites: grew up in ‘hoods where everyone hustled to survive—selling bodies, selling drugs, gettin’ over by any means. To me, the ad game was never more than a hustle—a means to an end. And I got what I needed.

There were years when I made more money than my parents combined. Won some awards. Met CEOs and minor celebs. Flew to places I’d only heard about in rap songs. But truth be told, my heart’s not in it anymore. I wish it was. I’ve never made more legal money for doing less in my life. But as a going-away present, I leave you with five ways to improve the ad game.

1. Ditch the CYA.

I’m still amazed by advertising’s “Cover your ass” mantra. Nobody makes a decision without cc-ing the entire company or leaving paper/e-mail trails so no one blames you when something gets screwed up. What happened to just doing your damn job and not lying about your capabilities? CYA-ing and office “politricks” waste time and energy and foster mistrust.

2. End the whitewash.

When I started, there were so few blacks, particularly in creative, that I was mistaken for everything from the mail boy to building security to a trespassing thug. Little has changed. There are still precious few blacks and Latinos. It blows me away how an industry based on reaching people from all walks of life is comfortable with a workforce that mirrors Friends and Sex and the City. I know it. You know it. Shrinking the talent pool like this reeks of stupidity, laziness and arrogance, not to mention blatant racism.

3. Quit acting like clients.

I got sick of decisions being made on the basis of not upsetting the client versus what’s right for the brand. Any client worth a damn wants you to tell them the truth as you see it, not as they see it. To do less is to be a vendor.

4. Quit looking for formulas.

For half the ’80s and ’90s, every brand from computers to tampons had that “Just do it,” praise-the-human-spirit vibe. Why? Because safe and justifiable work is easy to sell. If it worked for X, a version will work for Y. Bullshit. Communication is people. People ain’t formulas. The only way for a brand to connect is by looking each consumer in the eye, one at a time if necessary.

5. Grow up.

What’s more frustrating than “consumer culture”? Pseudo-enlightened ad folks bitching about it ad nauseam. News flash: Marketing is manipulation for profit. Cigarettes, liquor, cars, fashion, toys—it’s all dirty money. We do it ‘cuz manual labor sucks. I grew up with drug dealers and pimps—they were honest about their trades. They had to be. So do we. So get over it, or get out.

Advertising isn’t much more than selling stuff—looking people in the eye and doing your job. It’s the easiest hustle on the planet. Focus on the essence of it and the great work will return. And so will the fun.

Long live the ad game. Peace.