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.
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