A long time ago, while on production in LA, I had a free weekend and so spent it at the hotel pool. I had my book, a pile of magazines and a smoothie from the bar. This is the life, I thought to myself.
My reverie was soon interrupted, however, by the presence of another creative from my agency and his comely companion. That’s not his wife, I thought, as the conspicuous pair made their way poolside. The creative director stopped by my chaise and I could not help but notice his garb: kimono, Ray-Bans, leather sandals, ironic Asian tee shirt. Not to mention the babe. She was actually carrying his bag!
The girl barely acknowledged me, but he was compelled to catch me up on his global escapades and rigorous production schedule. They’d just shot in Paris and were editing in LA. Then it was back to Japan. Leaning over me, he whispered of the blonde: “That’s my assistant. She arranges everything. And she screws me at night.”
This guy worked for the same company I did (albeit overseas) doing essentially the same thing I did, but he was leading a completely different life than me. And it was clearly a more fantastic one. A hot assistant who does him and his books! Suddenly my day off at the pool seemed fairly pedestrian.
In many parts of the world, especially Latin America, being a creative director is like being a rock star. Successful creative directors regularly find themselves on TV accepting awards, offering opinions, hugging starlets. They are celebrities.
When I attended my first festival at Cannes, I met several rock star creative directors. Or should I say, I breathed the same air they did. Other than brief, insincere conversations, I basically watched as their various entourages brushed past me. One had a panel at the Palais. Another was late for a poolside press luncheon. Maybe they would catch me later at the Carlton…Yeah, right.
I am repulsed and I am envious. A man does a 30-second film about salad dressing and he’s on Brazil’s version of Entertainment Tonight? W…T…F?
Sad but true. Indeed, the welcoming film for this year's Portfolio Night at DDB beckoned a new generation of creative people to “become famous…become rock stars!” They were not being glib.
I won’t name the earlier-mentioned creative director. instead, let’s talk about a couple creative rock stars closer to home: Alex Bogusky and David Droga. Both men look the part and certainly have had their share of “hits.” The press swoons over them. They are on magazine covers. They are even in other people’s ads! Advertising savants? Maybe. God’s gift to culture? I doubt it. Still, there is something undeniably alluring about receiving that kind of attention. Adoration is damn hard to come by in real life. If by making ads one can acquire press, power and prestige then, wow, I want in.
Wait a minute; I am in! I have the job. Won some prizes. Travel a lot. But do I lead the rock star life? Not so much. Do I want the rock star life? Um…Picture Homer Simpson drooling.
I think at some point every creative person fantasizes about being that guy in the kimono. (Maybe not the kimono but you know what I mean.) We are in a very ego-driven business. Our ideas are worth money. Our ideas can become “hits.” We become “hit-makers.” Doors open. Salaries go up. And then…
And then we realize it’s only advertising. At least I hope we do. I can remember otherwise, the wanting… and the wondering: Why not me? Let me tell you from experience, those aren’t good feelings to have. They tend to push you more into your ego, unleashing character defects. It becomes less about doing a good job and more about getting. And while you might get if the getting is good, eventually you fail. And the fall can be like the 4th act in a VH1 expose’.
Case in point my buddy from the pool. Last I checked he’d been let go and was suing his former employer for damages. Damages, mostly, to his ego.
July 2, 2008