R-E-S-P-E-C-T, FIND OUT WHAT IT MEANS TO ME
Once, upon being informed yet again by a particularly obnoxious suit that, “That’s what the client wants!”, I pointed this out to her: The difference between a professional and a prostitute, is that the professional gives the client what he needs and the prostitute gives the client what he wants. Generally speaking anyway.
I did this at the peril of earning her eternal enmity, because the basic disrespect I felt she was bringing to the profession we both share strongly needed to be corrected.
My point is that a professional – a doctor, lawyer, tax consultant – tells you what you need to do and advises you impartially and accurately. He analyses a situation, diagnoses a diffi culty, prescribes a solution and helps you implement a course of action. The process is objective, it is assessable, it is clear. It is also sensitive and insightful, certainly among those good at their profession.
On the other hand you could have another kind of occupation that focuses on satisfying a want, massaging an ego, indulging a desire. Here while skill can still be required and needs satisfied, the objective is slightly different.
One of the ways in which advertising people seek to obfuscate the situation creating clouds of confusion the way cheap magicians do, is to suggest that there is a deep and unknown element of ‘high art’ involved. Some form of alchemy, of mysterious transmutation that takes place, which is vital to the process. There is in fact nothing mystical about ideas. Ideas come from intelligent and sensitive people from many professions.
I believe that there is, in the work of a doctor and a lawyer an element of instinct, of art and of intuition, much as there is in the advertising process. It is just that the advertising practitioners choose to mythologise the process, representing it as a dark tunnel that information passes through, out of which, miraculously, a ‘creative’ solution emerges. This is the kind of mumbo jumbo that does us – and our profession no good.
One reason for this is of course that we insist upon looking at ourselves as a ‘service industry’. This is a constant refrain in advertising agencies across the world. Suggesting somehow we are a spa rather than a boot camp for brands. Implying that our commitment is to massage client egos along with the message.
Service in our profession is a necessary component but should clearly be seen as secondary to the product, to results and to the development of the brand we are entrusted with. And ideally it should, in any case, be defined not in fuzzy ‘client satisfaction’ terms but in terms of measurable tracking.
The fact is that advertising suffers a huge image problem – a true irony for a calling that makes a living building the image of others. The way we choose to frame our profession is the way we will defi ne ourselves. If we disrespect the way we view our calling, we disrespect ourselves.
We must at the end of the day take more pride in our product, we need to invest more in understanding what we do and its effects and we need to build more equal-to-equal relationships with clients based on mutual respect.
K T Sandip
Executive Creative Director