Afew bold friends note that my predictable sunny disposition ramps up a few notches (if possible) during the holiday season. In fact, B-52s lead singer Kate Pierson once described my personality as "aggressively optimistic, bordering on irritating." In that spirit, my season's greeting to you all is "Get happy! Now!"
Advertising? Marketing? Commu n ications? However, you describe what it is you do, the bottom line is this: We ain't breaking rocks in a prison yard, people, so why aren't we having more fun?
Forget the hand-wringing of the boo-hoo financial media analysts or their sob sisters over at the political desk. Are things really that bad? I doubt it. Bet they're pretty damn good for most of you. If not, maybe you ought to do something about it.
But let's get back to this "happy" business. Face it. We are the Good Time Charlies of the business community. Always were and hopefully, always will be. It's in our DNA. That doesn't mean we aren't smart, capable, multifaceted and all that stuff. Quite the opposite.
Clients come to us because we are good at what we do, and they love working with us. Think of the time, energy and money we spend to woo them and show how talented we are! Yet we make a huge mistake along the way. We turn tasks into chores and let opportunities give us seizures instead of simply seizing them.
In short, we often forget to be our fun-loving, smart selves and that's a shame.
How many times, for instance, have you worked on a project, presentation or pitch and simply wanted to rip your hair out? Why is that? After all, as David Ogilvy once said, "When people aren't having any fun, they seldom produce good advertising."
Here's another ad lion's take on the topic: "I honestly believe that advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on." That's Jerry Della Femina. Well, you go, Jerry!
When's the last time you heard "fun" and "advertising" in the same quote? And if it's no fun to you? Or you don't feel like celebrating these days? Like I said, do something about it. Take a tip from planner Megan Kent. I asked her recently why she and creative partner Brent Bouchez were going to the trouble of opening yet another new agency in Manhattan.
Her response? Yeow! My e-mail's still on fire! "I started my own firm [Bouchez Kent + Co.] because I JUST COULDN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE! Ad agencies? Ugh. The departmental divides, the self-absorbed pursuit of industry awards, the primadonnas, the :30 commercial solution (to every problem!), the 'holier than thou' attitude toward the clients—and seemingly none of it for the betterment of anything! It's no wonder agencies have the reputation we do."
Talked off the ledge, she concluded that "This is about following my heart, my dream—pursuing a passion, a desire to put things right—or at least the way I think they should be."
So she didn't, in fact, open a new "agency." She and Brent are all about "brand architecture." Great. What ever. What they seem to be about is building a professional business that corresponds to their personal lives. Well, you go, Megan and Brent!
Megan's not the only one I've heard from. This column has given me an extremely interesting and exciting window from which to view our business as well as the people in it. I love hearing from readers and have been shocked by the number of responses from former comrades.
But whether I know them or not, I'm hearing from men and women in the ad community who simply love what they do and who are quick to contact me when I hit a nerve—good, bad or otherwise. Well, you go, readers!
In closing, I'd like to conclude the year by writing a little note of my own: "Dear Santa: Please bypass Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter's house this year. I know he's going through a personal divorce right now, but I want to add a professional one: I'd like to divorce myself as a reader from the magazine I haven't missed a single issue of since it returned to the newsstands in 1983."
Why? In a recent New York magazine interview, Mr. Carter detailed his new postmarital state of affairs, noting that he's entertaining more. "[Restaurateur] Brian McNally came over the other night—we were heading out to dinner—and he just thinks I've turned into a complete fag, like cooking and doing the laundry. So I made sure just as he came in the door, to be rearranging the flowers, Martha Stewart-like."
Oh, Santa. Really.
To all my readers out there (friends, acquaintances, strangers or foes): Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
As for Mr. Carter? Goodbye.