Infinite Jest II? If only David Foster Wallace wrote about advertising!
July 27, 2009
And I thought the porn industry was crazy…
Per sometime reader and longtime creative director, Jim Schmidt’s recommendation, I have begun reading David Foster Wallace. For those more ignorant than me, DFW was an exemplary essayist, professor and novelist best known for his profound and, at times, confounding prose. Time magazine named his 1994 novel, Infinite Jest one of the 100 greatest novels ever written. Suffering from acute depression, Wallace took his life on September 12, 2008.
Rather than Jest, I began reading DFW’s book of articles and essays, Consider The Lobster. So far it’s an extraordinary read. The opening piece (pun intended) on the Adult Film Awards is worth the book’s price.
My intent, however, is not to review DFW. Frankly, Wallace’s powers of analysis, precise wit and mastery of words are well out of my league.
Inspired, I decided to look at the advertising business as if through his eyes. Sadly, through that filter, there is nothing enlightening to report. Only foolishness. Between the experts and critics, the practitioners and teachers, and obviously the trade press, all has been said. David Foster Wallace would tell us…
As an industry, we’ve explored our own inadequate naval ad nausea (pun intended). The body cannot take another probe!
For an extended argument, he would blithely take on the dull saw topic of “integration.” We say above and below the line marketing need to come together, seamlessly. “Enough already,” he’d say. In summation: Some networks and agencies do it better than others. None are brilliant. Stuck inside silos, huffing their own hubris, most are bumbling along. Yet, their clients do not deserve a hall pass either. They, too, struggle bogged by politics and history. (This dysfunction is too irresistible for Wallace to leave alone! Here would be the fun part of his essay.)
Then: “You have enough praised and criticized (mostly the former) Crispin Porter & Bogusky. You have enough praised and criticized (mostly the latter) Draft FCB. You have exposed and deposed Martin Sorrel. Maurice Levy. John Wren. The other names and entities representing this small world are tiresomely ubiquitous.”
“Ads,” DFW, would tell us, “do little but sell (if that) and mean little to anyone but their vain and insecure creators.”
For the finale, he would have at our corrupt and overblown awards shows, revealing –(at last!)- Cannes for the weeklong cocktail party and fixed election it really is. Talk about infinite jest.