Confession of the real “Mad Men”

April 17, 2013

by Caroline Englestad

Caroline

There are times, at 3am when I wake from a deep sleep with a great campaign idea, my heart pounding. It is at times such as this that I think, why do I do this? This is insane, and yes, it IS mad and yes, I have often asked myself… why? Advertising is a thankless profession. We are the bad guys, the ones who ‘bend’ the truth to make people look good, to sell products no one needs. We know how to take a product or a service and ‘spin’ it to make it more appealing to the public. If you truly believe that, then you only have part of the story, there is so much more.Being a real ‘Ad man’ is SO much more than just throwing a TV commercial together about what somebody sells and putting it out there to the masses, ‘hoping’ it is well received. Agency life is very different from just ‘peddling’ media. Typically when I take a client on, I have already researched this client and their company. Is this company, at its core, a company I would want to do business with? Would I buy anything from them? How do they treat their customers? How committed are they? Is their heart in it? Are they ready? Because if the answer is a resounding no, to any of these questions, then the alarm bells go off… this will NOT be a good fit for either of us. A business must be ready to invest time, energy, and yes… money. If a business owner is willing to do that, then I will invest the same time, energy, blood, sweat, tears (yes, there are tears) and sleepless nights to ensure this company succeeds. I am their partner, I will celebrate with them jubilantly on the mountaintop and on the flip side, and I will walk one step ahead of them through the valley.

It all starts with an idea … (albeit at 3am!) one does not know when these ideas will come but they DO come and eventually I sit round a table with my colleagues and this raw idea is then cultivated, a group of people with very different views, talents and flaws come together to hash out this idea over strong coffee and eventually this seed materializes into a fully grown campaign, with all the elements working together, every piece carefully considered, planned, researched and agonized over.

The Pitch: this is a tricky time for an Ad Man. By the time I get to this stage I almost always know my client and what they need. I use the word ‘need’, they don’t always get what they ‘want’. If a client ‘wants’ to put his small children in a TV commercial, this is not what he ‘needs’ (undoubtedly he is the only one who loves his children, the viewer just finds them annoying) I am only pitching a campaign that I emphatically believe in, and not out of some self-indulgent pride but out of a genuine need to believe it will work. Putting everything on the line requires COMPLETE confidence.

The public are fickle, what works one day, won’t work another. The public get bored very easily so we strive, we change, we constantly evolve and we steer our clients through the ever changing ocean of ‘what’s hot and what’s not’. The client does not see what we put into a campaign, and ultimately if the campaign fails, it is the ‘Ad Mans’ fault, if the campaign is a huge success then we are just ‘doing our job’, thankless … yes, which brings me back to my first question , why do I do it ? Easy…when I have worked day and night on a campaign, when I have agonized, researched, eaten junk food, cried, bitten nails, paced the room, argued with my boss and finally… finally, taken a fledgling idea and made it into something great, when I hear people talk about it, when I see a business owner proud of their business, when I see a business flourishing, I can close my computer down and leave my office, go home to my children and tell them that I have done my best , that I gave it everything I could and my conscience is clean … well, until the next junk food binge anyway!

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