November 30, 2009

The Absurdity Of What We Do

This is a true story about the absurdity of advertising.

I was once creative director of an ad agency that had offices with a lovely view of San Francisco Bay.

One of our accounts was a shipping line. The shipping line was doing something amazing with one of its ships and they wanted us to create an ad about it.

They were going to take an enormous cargo ship and lengthen it. First an army of workmen with blowtorches were going to cut the ship in half. Then they were going to add an entire new section between the two halves. Then they were going to weld the whole thing back together. Then they would repaint and refurbish the ship. And then they would relaunch it. It was a monumental undertaking.

The day the work was scheduled to begin, one of our art directors, Genji Handa, flew down to the shipyard in Long Beach, CA to shoot photographs of the welders beginning the, literally, titanic job of cutting this ship in half.

The photos were taken. Later the retouching was done. Then the copy was written. The layouts were sent to the client. The client ad manager had comments, the comments were addressed, the copy was re-written. Advertising being what it is, others at the client had comments. The ad was re-written and re-laid out, it was sent back to the ad manager. More changes were made and the ad was sent back...

One afternoon, months later, Genji was sitting in his office working on what he hoped was the final iteration of the ad. He looked out his window. There he saw the new ship sailing into San Francisco Bay.

They finished the ship before we finished the ad.

Like the man says, you can't make this shit up.

Last days... nominate or vote for the 2009 Bully Award for Outstanding Achievement in Marketing and Advertising Bullshit. Voting closes tomorrow. Let your scream be heard.

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