21 February, 2012

Welcome to (D)adland

10 years ago if I used the phrase 'I've been up all night' it was usually accompanied with a half-eaten kebab and an early morning smokers cough. Now if I use the phrase, the kebab's still there, but in the other hand is a baby monitor and the cough is no longer mine but a teething 16-month old who's addicted to Calpol.

Forget about how the industry quietly removes any female creatives who are caught within a 100 yards of a mothercare - there are better politically minded and more female orientated people who are much better at debating that topic - but this is for all the Man-boy creatives who have taken or decided to take on the fatherhood brief.

Being a creative (irrespective of gender) is a 24hr job. If you're not banging out ideas, you're trying to get them made and then you go to the pub to come up with more ideas and work out how to get them made as well. It's one big loop and the longer you manage to stay in Adland, the more of a way of life it becomes. Who hasn't phoned their other half on a friday afternoon and had to utter that sentence, 'I'm going to have to work this weekend'?

It's part of the magic of being a Doctor of Creativity - you're on call pretty much all of the time but you love it and you wouldn't want to do anything else anyway.

So after you've taken the brief and worked closely with a difficult client (mood swings, grumpiness, morning sickness, etc.) for a period of 9 months the execution is ready to go live.

Then. It. Arrives.

Up until now, the closet thing to fatherhood was the acronym D&AD and now this helpless, squidgy thing covered in (what looks like) concrete dust, feta cheese and blackberry jam is being given to you as they say 'Here you go DAD!' As a creative/boy/man/, this life-changing moment you always heard others talking about is now actually changing your life right before your eyes. Now the fatherhood brief has changed and its got two propositions:

1: Be a top notch creative, become rich and famous, go to Cannes for the right reasons
2: Work out how to be a dad.

In the beginning, number 2 is all you work from - you get a week of paternity (2 weeks and you're creatively dead to an agency) so all your attention is focused at home with nothing more than working out whether 'It' is hungry, wet or both - a simple brief and one that after a while is fairly easy to execute.

After that though trying to get an execution to work for both becomes a little more difficult but not a great deal at first. They say the first 3 months are the hardest and yes, to a point that's true. But as a creative, at work, life carries on much the same - you're a little more tired and you go to the pub less (you're certainly not the last to leave anymore) but ideas still happen, Facebook statuses get written and coffee still gets drunk.

At home, 'It' does very little - it cries, it sh*ts, it eats. The two worlds live apart from each other. You don't see your friends as much and when you do they have to be arranged within the vicinity of baby -changing facilities but that's a different blog - try mumsnet for a deeper insight into friends and having a family.

But after a while something happens. After months of nothing, 'It' starts to do things. it starts to smile, it starts to crawl, it begins to walk and it slowly learns to talk and you realise that you love this thing as well. And that's the problem of the fatherhood brief - you now love two things -  (Three, if you count Mrs Buttery Toast, but this isn't about her.) Your job and your 'It'.

You want to do the best work possible, you want to reach creative nirvana and give birth to that black pencil idea. But also, you want to see 'It' grow and develop. You want to see how many wooden blocks 'It' can stack and you want to be there to clap every time 'It' manages to put a spoonful of yoghurt in its mouth.

And because you want to answer both propositions of the brief well, you have to compromise especially with the timings issues.

With Adland, it's about getting in and leaving*. You get in on the dot, but because it's not at the crack of dawn, you feel like you're being judged for being late in. Occasionally, you want to leave on time. Whichever it is, you're can't help but feel worried that people think you can't be doing good work if you're leaving in normal working hours or you're obviously not doing this for the love of the game anymore. So you try to cram in more ideas over a shorter period of time but all the while, you just want to send an email to the chiefs making it abundantly clear:

'I love this job and just because I'm not the first in or last out that doesn't mean I'm not committed. I only get to see 'It' for 20 minutes in the morning. I'm here and I want to do great things but I don't want to miss out on the other things.'  

From "Its' point of view, you want to make sure you're there whenever you can be. The morning change and feed and the occasional bath time-bottle-bed evening fixture. It's not a complicated thing to want but it's a complicated thing to do when you love both.

The fatherhood brief was always going to be tricky, the proposition was never going to be single-minded and timings would always go out the window.

Perhaps it's my own insecurities, perhaps it's the way the ad industry makes everyone feel like it's an honour and a privilege to work in it (it hasn't escaped my attention that there aren't too many creche's in ad agencies either).

I do love being a creative but i'm learning to love being a dad too. I know the industry doesn't make it easy, however, at the end of the day, any creative worth his/her salt will ignore the brief anyway.

That concludes my one (and probably) only profound blog post about anything ad related.

Next week, a dog in a tank dancing to Yazoo.

*This bears no relation to my current employment, it's a generalisation of all the places I and many of my friends have worked at within the Advertising Industry.

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