Friday, February 24, 2012

Life above the line.

I think it is every young advertising creative's dream to work in mainstream advertising.
Truth be told, that was what we were educated and trained to do.
Big print ideas. Storyboarding for television commercials. Radio scripts. 'Viral' ideas.
Yet my first job wasn't really mainstream. Rapp Collins was a direct agency. And direct means 'below the line'. And by below the line, we're talking about junk mails, flyers, coupons, postcards, point of sale stickers, wobblers, 3 dimensional mail packs, you get the idea.
I am adamant that no advertising school/college in the world prepares graduates for the world of direct advertising. The communications course coordinator in RMIT saw the advertising program itself as poison to society and refuse to provide a proper budget or adequate staff. (In fact, my first ECD introduced me to others as 'the poor bastard who went from D&AD student finalist to direct mail hell'.)
Suffice to say as a junior I sucked at my job. My first assignment was an 18 page envelope sized booklet for Amcal. And I couldn't see the importance of the position of the Dodo bird to ... anything in life. I couldn't empathise with the clients, the account executives, the concept of direct mail.
Did I try get out of it ASAP? No, I was pretty sure that was the best job I could ever had as a fresh graduate. An Asian graduate in the industry, to add.
Plus, there's always something you can learn, and as a junior we can only be thankful that an agency is willing to take risk and invest on you.
So I got retrenched 2 years later for being so naive. Got offered another job a year later. Resigned 6 months later. Back to freelance a few months after that. But it was still in a 'direct' environment. (Note to any creative reading this: you are what your folio says you do.)
And recently I was given the chance to work in the 'above the line' department of an agency. 5 years after graduation, my university wet dream came true. (My ex-writer's quote came to mind: do you know how many men a junior girl would fuck to be in your position?)
But things are a bit different now. Life above the line is this grey, slow-moving mine field. In direct we had 2 days to get a brochure out. After that we could see millions of flyers printed out, and everything is measurable and tangible. The result is there.
Mainstream, not so much. Yes, we get 10 times the budget, we have more time to work on stuff. But the stakes are higher, and clients are more hesitant. It involves more people and that invites opportunities to fuck up.
I'm no expert, in fact I'm not sure if I'll ever want to go full time. But since I've been absent for a while I thought I'd compensate with a long post of my feelings.
Here's an anecdote I like to use to sum up my current situation. When we're young, all we wanted was candy. And we wished to have enough money to buy all the lollies we want. 20 years later, our wish of having that amount of money comes true. But why aren't we buying all the candies off the shelves?
Dreams do come true. But we simply didn't expect ourselves to change.