My friend and fellow advertising creative/documentarian/newly-minted media gadfly, Erik Proulx, has been touring the country to promote his breakthrough film, Lemonade. For the three or four of you whom haven’t heard, Lemonade is his 35-minute documentary featuring people (including Mr. Proulx himself) who share their stories about losing their jobs in advertising and then go on to do something more meaningful in their professional and personal lives. Hence, when life gives you lemons…get it?
At the most recent New York screening, Erik spoke to the sold-out crowd afterward. He reiterated a profound quote from one of the film’s subjects, “Don’t just be the person looking for a job; be the person doing something interesting.” Hmm. Think about that for a while.
In the film, “something interesting” translates to doing something creative, independent and entrepreneurial. The subjects tell their tales of liberation (albeit involuntary) from a job in advertising, and how that was the first step into stepping into careers that really stirs their souls - a working artist, an independent coffee roaster, a personal yoga/health instructor, a documentary filmmaker and the like. Interesting choices, interesting lives, all of them.
And kudos to those featured in the film. Everyone can use some inspiration and hope these days.
However, isn’t the reason most of us got into advertising is because advertising itself is inherently interesting? Everyone, with whom I went to portfolio school and/or worked alongside in agency creative departments, all shared the same passion to not have a run-of-the-mill, trapped-in-a-cubicle, regular-old office job. Working as a creative in advertising has given me the opportunity to wake up every day and make something from my mind. It’s a job in which I literally open a book of blank pages and attempt to fill them with ideas – words, pictures, scribbles, random thoughts. Out of this chaotic soup that bubbles from my head comes coherent, likeable (I hope) and sellable ideas. When it happens, it’s magic. When it doesn’t, you turn the page and try again. To make a living doing that is beyond interesting. It’s amazing. And that’s just the tip of the creative iceberg.
To bring these ideas to life, for the last 10 years, I got to work with directors, actors, musicians, celebrities, illustrators, photographers, animators, sound engineers, video editors, graphic artists, web developers – just to name a few. When budgets were big, I got the amazing opportunity to travel around the world on the company dime. I can now order room service in French. Or tell you where to get Indian food in Cape Town.
Lastly, I’ve got to look at billboards with headlines I wrote, watch TV spots I scripted, play with microsites I wrote and developed, read print ads that came from my mind.
A career in advertising made it possible for me to experience all that. For me, at least, that is doing something interesting. It hasn’t always been easy or without its share of conflicts and struggles, but overall, it’s been interesting.
There’s no question that the people featured in Lemonade are nothing short of inspirational. It’s also no coincidence they all have a strong personal drive, impeccable communication and marketing skills and the ability to brand themselves – skills learned from working in advertising.
And good for them for tapping new careers from their passions. But for those who are still inspired by doing what we do, well, good for us. Let’s just hope we can continue to convince agencies and clients to keep funding our desire to do interesting things.