Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Generation 2.0

I suspect I’m dealing with a weird kind of generation gap right now. More and more, I find myself among writers who don't really proof or edit their work. More unnerving than that, they don’t seem to have the fear of the fatal oversight, the typo or bit of clumsiness you might spot in a printed document when it’s too late to change. My theory is that everyone below a certain age has grown up (professionally) in a world where it’s more important to get it out there than get it right. There’s no need to spend too much time debugging the first attempt because the next version will be along in a second.

Or it's a work ethic thing. I used to believe that 14 years in advertising didn't leave you with very much, but that’s not true. In the creative department of an agency, there’s no place to hide. Even now, most agencies store a copy of every project with the signatures of those who worked on it. Your mistakes will find you. You’ll get a chance to fix it, but that’s all. There’re no Excel sheets to cover you, no hiatus while your boss makes graphs and action plans. You learn a very important corporate lesson without the expensive training in five-star banquet halls from people with famous names – accountability.

As the recently concluded Cannes Advertising Awards are being debated or celebrated in the advertising world, I have a few long-overdue Gold Gargoyles to give out:
To the creative director who made me rewrite a paragraph 37 times.
To he who returned a smug 100-word masterpiece saying: “Very nice, now say it in 30”.
To she who made me sorry I was born for the tiniest little debatable misuse of an article.
To another, who said in response to the most common defense: “Is your benchmark your client or the people who get published in the New Yorker?”
To every one of them, for saying, at one point or another, of some particularly cherished piece of work: “This is shit”.
To the unknown copywriter in The Copy Book who gave me my most valuable piece of editing advice: “Kill all your darlings”.

But this little glory hallelujah to advertising becomes null and void after just a cursory glance through the ads in the newspapers. They’re not proofing or editing anymore, either. So I guess we’re back to the generation gap, then.

99% becomes the new 100%. Then it’s 98, 97, 96 and before you know it, 65% okay is perfectly acceptable. It's all very effortlessly fashionable. Perhaps having personal standards is now passé, and I'm the one not getting it.

11 comments:

the real nick said...

If it's any consolation to you (probably not): this phenomenon of slipping basic professional standards is not limited to PR and advertising. I've got junior architects working with me who couldn't produce a hand drawn sketch anymore if you beat them over the head with a ruler. It's all computer programs and copy & paste from other (copied) images. And everyone seems ot rely on Wikpedia for information. Googling is the new black.

So, yeah, You are getting old.

Mrs.Shandekar said...

Think this laissez faire attitude is evident in all lines of work. I remember telling a junior colleague: "Get item A right and you will have almost done your job correctly.".

On the other hand maybe I've just become a whiny old fart!

nzm said...

It's everywhere.

For me, it started in the professional photography industry in which I was involved on the processing and developing side.

When film was still around, we had the pickiest customers who wouldn't accept a photo that we had processed if it was about 2cc (miniscule) difference in colour or density when compared to other images.

When digital photography came in, suddenly they were printing their own and accepting a far lesser quality image than they would EVER accept from us!

Hypocrites.

Gargoyle said...

@The Real Nick: Dammit! I suspected it all along but now you've gone and confirmed it.
@NZM: I think photography is probably is where this shows faster and more than anywhere else.
@Yamini: Hahahahaha, there are times when I sound even to myself like the difficult old cow that I swore when I was younger to never ever turn into!

Thom said...

"Kill all your darlings" is supposedly a Faulkner quote, but some say it was actually "Murder all your darlings" by Arthur Quiller-Couch (or something like that, too lazy to look it up).

Gargoyle said...

Ah. The copywriter in the Copy Book had attributed it to someone but I didn't realise that it referred to editing anyway. I thought the guy had adapted the thought to writing! That's what he got my award for, har har har.

Krishnan Menon said...

Todays AEs are rubbish. changing jobs every 9 months on a promotion and more money and in 5 years you have a generation of overpaid, under-qualified VPs who actually know nothing. Time to drive a cab I think.

Thom said...

>I thought the guy had adapted the >thought to writing! That's what he >got my award for, har har har.

So it's a very good thing you're a writer and not, say, a Kindergarten teacher!

Neeta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neeta said...

Maybe it's a sense of entitlement - that there's someone else who's "paid to proof", so why should I; or a lack of pride in one's work. Or perhaps even indifference. We should discuss this over drinks.

Gargoyle said...

Dammit! Once again it slips my mind that a blog is in the public domain! Yes I owe you a drink to buy your silence :)

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