By design, most advertising is shiny and happy. Its creators not so much.
May 7, 2010
Much has been documented on the correlation between mental illness and creativity. The starving artist is an unfortunate cliché. That he or she will be tormented by demons seems almost necessary, par for this particularly hazard-ridden course.
And so, as a young man, I wondered if by choosing writing, and then copywriting, was I in turn dooming myself to a life of anxiety and depression? Would misery be my price for creativity? Despite any worries, I was not deterred. Even then, few things satisfied me as much as the creative process. It was easy dismissing morbid thoughts while in the midst of creation. Bit puzzling during down time but that’s what drugs and alcohol were for!
If artists and writers tend to be happiness-impaired then I think it’s fair to say so are many art directors and copywriters. For better and worse, do we not share the creative gene? Carry the argument one step further and a bittersweet irony emerges: that the advertising we make is shot through with optimism beyond what permeates the real world, especially ours. The myths we create for our clients are almost always universally positive. We bring good things to life, even if, as copywriters and art directors, we lead lives of quiet desperation.
Poets can wallow in their misery, the satirists their cynicism. Painters express themselves however they see fit. But except for the Rogues Gallery copywriters and art directors have no such outlet. Our clients demand jubilant creative. If our work demonstrates a problem it is always followed by the solution. Has to be, for that is the definition of advertising. As Dan Draper said to one of his staff, “We don’t create anything. We solve problems.”
Surf the trade blogs. Much of it is angry and critical. This agency sucks. So does that campaign. Fingers point far more than thumbs go up. We don’t appear to like one another. We often don’t appear happy. I know bad news travels faster than good. If it bleeds it leads. But sometimes I wonder: Are we really just miserable? And then the irony…
A copywriter cries himself to sleep at night but everyday he’s “lovin’ it” for McDonald’s. An art director suffers from serious abandonment issues but advocates were “in good hands” with Allstate. And so on. Happy thoughts created by sad people.
And so I ponder creating all this delight… Does perpetually finding the bright side make us cynical? Or can the power of positive thinking eventually imbue us with happiness? Is it all bullshit and who cares? My answers: Yes. No. Maybe.
Yes, I’m generalizing. Not all of us are miserable. But then, not all of us are creative. Have a nice day ☺