Tuesday, November 20, 2007
This essay was inspired by recent items including:
• An Adweek piece by Paul Capelli that wondered if we should start a support fund for out-of-work adpeople.
• Tom Messner’s son asking why copywriters don’t receive residuals for taglines ala members of the WGA or The Screen Actors Guild.
• Rumors about the scheming behind Steve Beigel’s termination at Dentsu.
• The announcement that GSD&M is primed to fire roughly 200 employees.
• Continued instances of discrimination on Madison Avenue, with rising accusations of ageism.
• A cryptic post at wheresmyjetpack.blogspot.com dated November 15, 2007.
This all leads one to question: Will the advertising industry establish an employee union?
It seems inevitable, especially since Baby Boomers—who are wont to initiate legal actions and organize protests—will increasingly become “victims” in the current system.
As the mergers and holding company maneuvers carry on, the ground troops have less and less control over their ability to collect a paycheck. Let’s also consider the fickle nature of clients, where CMO roles average 18 months.
The standard agency drone can expect to lose his/her job for no reason, and with no warning.
The creative department has always been fueled by subjectivity, which means if the new ECD, CD or ACD decides you’re no good, you’re gone. Ditto when a client wants fresh blood.
Agencies have instructed managers to avoid giving stellar reviews in order to make layoffs easier. Heaven forbid a newly-inserted boss should suddenly deem a formerly great employee to be lousy.
It’s common to get axed on Friday, and see your replacement arrive on Monday. Discovering the search for a successor happened while you were clocking 70-hour weeks is quite a treat.
And shame on the shit holes that command managers to clean house, then ultimately eliminate the manager.
Some might argue the industry runs a “free agent” operation. But every professional sports league has a union for its free agents.
Others declare we enjoy a profession offering extraordinary salaries. These old school hacks are likely exploiting the original order, given that the rest of us know pay levels are dropping—and the younger generations will never see the wages of predecessors.
Shrinking incomes are coupled with dwindling severance packages. Severance, of course, is at the discretion of the employer. It’s a gift. And agencies are becoming really cheap gift-givers. If they could award you a McDonald’s gift card in lieu of cash, they would.
Negotiating a better severance package is often futile. Unless you’re in a protected class with air-tight evidence of wrongful termination, you have little recourse. Few have the opportunity to accuse an employer of forcing you to solicit prostitutes in Prague. Even fewer would pursue such a political and risky bargaining tactic.
Generating maximum results with minimum resources is the norm. Agencies stuff cubicles with the most inexpensive bodies possible, yet criticize the quality of the product. It’s no coincidence that Publicis’ latest integrated venture is titled Insight Factory—the laborers are slaving in a virtual sweatshop.
Unfortunately, Madison Avenue has historically been averse to progressive evolution, particularly when the sacred bottom line is affected. But how much longer will workers tolerate the outdated attitudes and practices? The corruption-filled chasm between the powers-that-be and the powerless expands daily.
It’s tough to witness top executives with golden parachutes while you’re getting a golden shower.