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QUESTION FOR YOU

By Troy Scarlott, SVP, ECD

QUESTION FOR YOU

The holiday season is here. I heard my first Christmas song on the radio. Lights are going up. Trees are seen tied to the tops of SUVs. Over the weekend, family and friends gathered for some thankful gluttony. At Thanksgiving dinner, I was introduced to a good friend’s father, who was in town visiting. He of course asked me what I did for a living. I told him. The small talk continued as we chatted about advertising, my career, DVRs, a funny TV spot he liked, and the annoying length of commercials during NFL games. Gesturing to me with his cocktail in hand, he then asked me a very pointed question. It was a sincere question. It felt like my grandfather asking me what I really thought about something.

“So, Troy… do you like what you do?”

In a blink of an eye, my career flashed before my eyes. Bright strobes of my jobs, my agencies, my bosses, my clients were linked cinematically in mind with my best work, my killed work, my produced work, my terrible work that was still produced. The RFPs, the lost pitches, the politics, the frustrations, the “what-if” moments and the Big Idea epiphanies all ran through me.

And to my surprise, without missing a beat, a smile crossed my lips and I replied: “ I love it. I am very fortunate to have a great career.”

Over the last few days, I have asked myself why I was so surprised by my spontaneous, unrehearsed answer.

Maybe it’s because advertising is not important. It’s not like we’re saving lives or anything. Then I remembered the very memorable campaign from Kaiser Permanente that encourages people to "Thrive" in their life. I even laughed at a Kaiser radio spot – yes! it still exists… a well-written, beautifully produced radio spot.

Maybe it’s because advertising is full of charlatans, magicians and con artists. Then I recalled the tireless effort of senior executives of both the 4A’s and its agencies, to train the next generation of advertising professionals.

Maybe it’s because we are a bunch of salesman out to make a profit. Then I recalled the wonderful pro bono work that agencies across the world develop on behalf of organizations in their regions, or the launch of GOOD.

Maybe it’s because we just want to win awards. Then I recalled seeing a very arresting image of shiny, gold advertising awards sitting in a heap inside a beat-up metal trash can in the lobby of Ground Zero's (former LA agency) office. To this day, it reminds me what’s important.

Maybe it’s because advertising is not valuable. Then I remembered that thousands of advertising professionals go to work every day to provide for their families, send their children to college and give their lives purpose.

Maybe it’s because we get too emotionally involved in our work and our ideas. Then I recalled one of my favorite quotes: Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion. (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel)

Maybe it’s because of the huge egos and divisive politics of agency life. Then I remembered people like Doug Speidel, my first CD who gave me my first chance; and Susan Credle, who taught me how to be a craftsman. And leaders like Bob Jeffries, who motivated us to pour ourselves into our work after 9/11; and Eric Johnson, who trusted me to be his agency’s creative leader and continually challenges us to move forward.

Maybe it’s because of the millennial generation and their entitled attitudes. And then I reminded myself of our agency’s teams who continually give their hearts and souls to contribute to building our agency, not just building their books.

Maybe it’s because it’s too hard to produce truly great work. And then I remembered the excitement, passion and activity in our office when we launched a new consumer website for Fisker Automotive in only 8 weeks.

Maybe it’s because it’s just not fun anymore. Then I remembered the laughs we had when we all came in a few weekends ago to "work" on a pitch. Those hours didn’t feel much like work. And even though we lost the pitch, I’ll never regret giving up a Sunday for work.

Maybe it’s because clients these days just don’t appreciate anything we do. Then I recalled one of our clients, who literally says, "Thank you for all you do!" after every weekly status call. Without fail.

Maybe my answer was so true and so quick because I believe advertising is important and valuable. Our industry hosts trusted mentors, amazing talent and forward thinking experts. It consistently embraces change and challenges the status quo to create the next “new” and “different.” It is a career where passion is absolutely a prerequisite for success. And it is very true that our younger teams constantly remind us that what we do is exciting.

Maybe I love what I do because most of the time, when we are focused on creating great work, it doesn’t feel much like work.  Or maybe it’s because I was in a food coma and didn’t realize what I was saying.

So, do you like what you do?

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