Friday, June 20, 2008

on making a contribution

I've been thinking about El Joker's kind response to a post about the comparative social worth of our line of work versus that of, say, doctors.
On one part it's frustrating to not make a difference in the world and on the other, well at least I'm not being depended on to save a limb.
And what I'm thinking is: we DO make a difference, though it's easy to forget in the melee of dealing with deadlines and crazy clients. For better or worse we are the world's Culture Mongers, dispensing values and ways of life to aspire to, impacting boggling numbers of people around the globe, even in places where our campaign isn't running. (Like in rural China where Wilson tennis racket cases are coveted shoulder bags.)

Sure, one measly coupon insert or banner ad won't change the world, but we shouldn't forget that what we produce in the aggregate has a huge subliminal (and liminal) impact. Which is why stuff like Dove's Real Beauty campaign and Italian Vogue featuring non-white faces wields power beyond what research charts show, the power to (slowly but surely) right a wrong situation.

Of course, most of us don't get the opportunity to disseminate our own admirable values in a broadscale campaign that's ostensibly to push product. But we can make a difference, I believe, in seemingly small choices regarding casting or artwork or word choice in copy.

Now back to our regularly scheduled soapbox.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget that we also hawk wares and services many people don't need and can't afford, contributing to a glut of unrecycled packaging and irresponsible manufacturing practices that harm the environment and the living standards of the labor force. My contribution to society has mostly been helping marketers make huge profits on computers and peripherals, software, cell phone service, meds for invented disease states, toiletries, insurance products, credit card add-on services, real estate, coffees-of-the-month, cigarettes, Scandanavian furniture, etc.

We all need to earn our way, and making money has let me contribute to places like the Red Cross when natural disasters strike. That's probably one of the only ways our careers actually matter -- barring owning a million dollar apartment, we can afford to help others around the planet when the need is there. I'm not thumping a Bible here, just saying we can look beyond our own insulated selves and give a leg up to the people who go into debt buying the junk we help sell.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Good points, Auntie. Worthy of an entire post. Which I intend to do, only not on a mad monday. Now, back to pushing meds for invented disease states to debtors.

Joker said...

Great point about us being the culture mongers and you definitely have a point that in the drop of the ocean we contribute to culture and whatnot, but being part of an industry that fabricates images and ideal archetypes, I can't help but want to make a bigger difference some times.

Auntie has a great point in that we can get the monetary pull or push to lend a helping hand, but in theory we could earn more money in other industries and help more. I'm not saying I'm on the cusp of being a Red Cross envoy, but I can't help but see what I've accomplished in the years I've been a copywriter and be able to easily shrug it off regardless of the times I've heard someone talk about an ad I did.

You're totally right though, we do make a contribution to the collective culture at large, but at least for me, I'm a hell of a lot prouder of what I've written in my blog and commented on fellow blogs than most of what I've done in my career.

Is it because I have been able to offer my view sans filters, especially the DOUCHE filters that prompt me to cringe and grit my teeth? Yeah. That's probably one of the biggest reasons. But I'm also pretty sure that I see the tons of effort I put into something, see the final product and constantly ask myself, was that worth it?

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Agreed, Joker, freedom to offer our own views sans filters is probably prime motivation for most bloggers, or for that matter, writers of handheld lit. (Also why so many copywriters have half-written novels or film treatments in Desktop folders) Advertising can't compare, though it's the most fun you can have, I believe, making a living. But it's NOT a pursuit we'd do without pay...unlike, say, blogging or working on a manuscript b/c the rewards of those things are greater than $$. (Although $$ is, of course, the hope of every moonlight fictionista. Including myself.)

Joker said...

Greatly agreed. For my part I'm on to chapter 32 of my novel. About ten to go, lets see if I can quit dicking around enough to finish it.

but definitely, this isn't a job I'd do sans pay because though in theory, copywriting is actually compelling, exciting and wonderful on various levels, in practice such is not the case. So I'll just keep blogging and flogging away in hopes to get more pay for less work and more self realization. :)

cheers sweet fictionista, may our blogs lead to greener pastures laden with Jackson blossoms in our bank accounts.