Advertising is a glamorous industry. Or so it may seem to some from the outside looking in, partly due to how the industry is portrayed in TV shows, film and lifestyle press. Of course, there are ad people enjoying a corner office with views of the San Francisco Bay or the equivalent, but they’re in a league of their own.
How what about the view from inside the cubicle farm? What are the ad grunts of marketing communications going through at work right now?
Long hours is one complaint. Rich Siegel, a 44-year old freelance copywriter from Culver City posits:
Nights. They belong to you. We believe that after you’ve put in a hard day of ideating or content creation or emojifying, your brain needs to shut down. The doors at the agency close at 7. So you get home by 8. To see your kids. Your husband. Your wife. And the rest of your life. Clients need to be told that last minute changes do not get last minute solutions. Thinking requires time. Good night.
Naturally, Siegel’s advice is reserved for agencies dedicated to retaining staff and growing the team’s capabilities.
Outside the highly privileged world of top tier ad agencies, there’s another “ad world” where the pay is not as good and the work suffers.
Irene Keliher is an award-winning “creative writer” but she struggled to make ends meet as a client-side copywriter at an online retail company in Seattle.
Her sad description is that of a Creative Class dungeon.
Most of my writers made around $28,000 a year, which is laughably low in a city with extremely high rents. Most justified this by assuming they’d acquire a useful line on their resume. Most became deeply resentful within a few months. A plethora of indignities piled up. We moved to a building under construction; for a while our floor had no water cooler or coffee machine, which had been major perks in the old space. Loud buzzing, sawing, and clanging sounds echoed through the space. Dust and detritus fell from the ceiling. Once, a pipe above us burst.
No coffee? In Seattle? That is a violation! Yet, being paid $28,000 to write product descriptions all day sounds a lot better than joining the military, or working the retail floor for a fraction of that sum.
Now, please take a look at your surroundings. Do you work close to a 40-hour week in an agency or design shop with natural lighting, expensive furnishings, Apple computers, free lunches and stocked refrigerators? If yes, you’ve got it good, even on bad days when your ideas are shot down, your schedules and budgets are blown and the walls appear to be caving in. You’ve got it good because you get to come in fresh tomorrow with new solutions to old problems, and get paid fairly for it while earning the respect of your peers. Plus, there is an innate satisfaction in the work itself. Problem solvers love to solve problems.