Saturday, June 13, 2020

On kindness in advertising, rule(r)s, exceptions and Ali Rez

#NotABlugSplat - Reprieve
A well-known, multi-multi-awarded creative director at a Lebanese agency would go inside the junior art directors' cubicle where about six of them are packed like sardines, would look at them with disdain, sigh audibly, shrug and turn his back and leave - not once guiding them or correcting their creative output. I met him once, he looked at me, and - with a tone between sarcasm, indifference, merged with haughtiness - he uttered: "Oh, you're the one with the blog". Mind you, believe it or not, he was trying to give me a compliment. But as far as compliments this sounded more like "for someone this obese you don't sweat much", which is backhanded at best.
Another one, adopts Calvin's theory (to quote Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes comic strip), "if you can't win by reason, win by volume" - that man finds everything infuriating and a cause for screaming. And I mean everything! When he wanted a junior to go fetch a file from her desk, and the elevator did not show up like immediately, he screamed so hard at the girl she quit the next day - and that agency was actually a revolving door of talent due to that reason.
Oh, and trust me on this: The higher you go in the echelon the less creative directors are ready to share credit. I was consulting once on a project with an advertising agency on a project and the brainstorm was eerily, eerily quiet. During the lunch break I said so to the creative staff, and someone quipped "why bother say anything, the creative director will steal it anyhow and claim it was his idea."
If you think these are some isolated incidents, do think again. Advertising is rampant with such cases and yes, I experienced many myself - the difference was I stood up to myself because by the time I moved to advertising I had transitioned from a successful career in engineering and consulting. Ergo, I had many years behind me in my career and honestly did not need that to put up with such behavior.
Naturally, not everyone was as lucky. I saw many juniors being laughed at or being paraded in front of others for their lack of creativity (though oddly their "uncreative" ideas would be appropriated later by the higher ups with no credit). I apologize I am inserting this quote when race issues are burning in the United States but I once read a quote that said, "what a slave needs more than freedom, is a slave of his own" - which is why those who remain in the industry end up bitter and release this bitterness on younger, less experienced people once they go up the chain. And with this, they repeat the pattern of abuse and risibility they were subjected to on a newer, fresher generation of advertising people.
Oddly, all this post was inspired by the exception rather than the rule. Yesterday, I read it twice in one day, how Ali Rez - who is currently at BBDO Dubai (serving as Regional Executive Creative Director, Middle East & Pakistan) is - not just nice - but "one of the nicest people" one could meet (to read that twice in one day is truly surprising!). 
So Ali, please go on being the nicest. You are an exception that proves the rule. And sadly advertising is not only a land of rules, but rather a land of rulers.