What We Really Do All Day

Alex Bogusky refuses to be cynical (see December’s Creativity, or take my word for it). George Parker, on the other hand, does not entertain that particular daydream.

Many years ago, when I used to work for a particularly crazy woman in California, she made a statement that has stuck with me ever since… “Our job is not to create ads, it’s to manage the process.” I thought she was nuts, but as the years have passed, I’ve realized that as far as the fucked up ad biz is concerned: She was dead on. How many times have we sat in meetings that decided nothing, read briefs that stated the obvious, created numerous campaigns destined never to see the light of day, been kiss-ass nice to clients (and agency management) who you would rather drown in sewage? In fact, how much of your working life have you spent “Managing the process” rather than actually producing anything of worth?

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. David
    The single most pathetic aspect of what I wrote about is the fact that after thirty years in the business, I honestly believe it’s got worse! Even when BDA’s (Big Dumb Agency’s) are looking at the prospect of extinction, most of their efforts are still geared towards “Managing the process.” When you consider that “The Poisoned Dwarf” (Sir Martin Sorrell) recently informed shareholders two thirds of WPP’s revenues would soon be derived from non-advertising activities, I guess “Managing the process” is all you are left with.

  2. Coming from a marketing services background, I have to disagree with your thinking a bit (even though it’s risky to do so). I know what traditional ad guys think–that anything other than TV and print is so not sexy. But that’s not what I think. Interestingly, it’s also not what some of the best ad guys think any longer. The move to truly integrated, media neutral campaigns means we need more creative thinking, not less.

  3. Dr. Hans Akkerman says:

    i have to agree with George. advertising as we know it will be extinct very shortly. it only existed to take advantage of guaranteed audiences. and those audiences are disappearing.
    it’s funny how advertising people seem to think they are in some way necessary to society. they aren’t and never were.
    it is reflexive of advertising people to be optimistic regardless of the situation but there’s no upside to extinction. and creative people were attracted to advertising for the frankly “glamourous” prospect of reaching a mass audience with their work. Creating TV advertising was/is exciting. direct mail less so, let’s face it.
    adguys will be mourned in the same way record company and TV executives will be mourned…not at all!

  4. Hans,
    Talk of the industry’s extinction is ludicrous, albeit a popular topic (see Gaping Void). The industry is simply changing. Why is that so hard to accept?
    As far as a desire for glamour goes, I suppose that does drive some ad people. However, I feel sorry for those so deluded. Advertising exists to sell stuff, not to feed the outsized egos of people who couldn’t make it in Hollywood.
    Perhaps, I’m in the minority, but my motivation for joining the biz, and staying in it, is purely financial. At the end of the day, even the best TV spot of the year is nothing more than corporate propaganda. It’s not art.

  5. I can see both sides to the argument, and I couldn’t agree with George more, but am left wondering that maybe the success of CP+B in recent years if for a lack of cynicism?
    Maybe it takes a healthy understanding and acknowledgment that the process is a necessary one?

  6. Carl LaFong says:

    It’s easy not to be cynical when you’ve got people kissing your butt 24/7.
    Anyway, I think David’s right: Advertising isn’t dying, it’s evolving. (Advertising agencies on the other hand. . . well, that’s a different story.) While I agree with Dr. Hans that society would not shed a tear if ad executives were to become obsolete, the fact remains that advertising – in whatever form it mutates into – is a necessary evil for a functioning economy.
    By the way, David, like you, I got into this dopey business to make money, not art. (Not that I’ve done either.)

  7. dr. Hans Akkerman says:

    Talk of the industry’s extinction is ludicrous, albeit a popular topic (see Gaping Void). The industry is simply changing. Why is that so hard to accept?
    yes the industry is changing. Extinction is change too! you are ignoring the fact that the single fundamental thing that underpins the “Ad industry” as we know it is disappearing. ergo the industry based on it (the mass passive audience) will disappear too. it will not conveniently morph into something that will suit us. the past 50 years or so will turn out to have been an anomaly. consumers have taken control and no longer desire the “interruptive” ad model.
    yes the industry has changed. see the rise of Google. not too many of those text ads made it into the recent CA ad annual!
    yes, there will be a continued desire on the part of brands to promote themselves. that does not necessarily mean there will be a role for “advertising” as it’s traditionally known. why would it?