AdLand Suit is Dan Shute, a Board Account Director at Delaney Lund Knox Warren, a top ten London Advertising Agency. This is where I write about the life of a Suit - which can include pretty much anything. Delaney's didn't know I was doing this, but they do now. They still don't agree with everything I say though. They'd also probably rather I swore less.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Why blogging needs Suits

I have to confess, when the blogging phenomenon first hit AdLand, I found it all a little confusing. I think this is largely because it was driven and owned almost entirely by planners. There was an awful lot of chin-stroking and an awful lot of pontificating from an awful lot of extremely clever people using unnecessarily obfuscatory words and phrases like 'copacetic' and 'empathy deficit' (see what I did?). A lot of it was (and is) fairly (or even extremely) interesting, but it was all very one-sided - to generalise massively, it was written by planners for planners. Or, to be slightly more inflammatory, people with data for people who get data hard-ons. And yet, ironically, that data itself was often bloody woolly, based on nothing other than opinions that lacked quantification in a very un-plannery way - a situation that led to the 'Great Blogging Debate of 2007' as it's known by nobody. Poor old Russell seemed to cop most of the flak for that, simply for being the bloke who'd embraced it first. And best. At least, as seemed best at the time.

If one thing had been confirmed though, it was that blogging had a degree of power and influence over people - the question was whether that power could be edifying, or whether its sole consequence would be the wholly unnecessary (and touchingly melodramatic) "death of planning".

And then came the creative revolution - and it all seemed to make a lot of sense. Blogs were being used to share and critique work (and, in latter times, to test the moderation skills of AdLand's finest Art Directors), to share anecdotes of creatives past, to offer hints and advice to those trying to get ahead (or even started) in advertising, to be rude about digital/DM/clients/Suits/delete as appropriate - they basically became pubs with less booze or pork scratchings, but better AV facilities to actually show off the work you were discussing.

But it's still all so very introspective and self-regarding. Bad work only ever seems to exist because of bad clients, bad briefs, bad Suits, bad directors or bad brands - never because of bad creatives. (Obviously, I'm generalising hugely here, and there will be examples to prove me wrong - but as Primo Levi said, in an infinite universe, everything happens at least once, so single examples are meaningless. Besides, generalising is half the fun of blogging.)  And why shouldn't it be? Part of the job of the creative, and part of the psyche that allows them to take on brief after brief after brief, is to have absolute belief in their own ability to (a) crack whatever's in front of them better than anybody else could, and (b) crack whatever's in front of anybody else better than they could - and I salute them for that. Some of the best creatives I've worked with are arrogant prigs, and I wouldn't change them for a second.

But that's why blogging needs Suits. We are, for whatever reason, and despite having our perfectly manicured fingers all over pretty much every step of the process, strangely removed from it. The Client's the one who'll enjoy the massive bonus should the work succeed, the planner gets the IPA glory (although every Suit should write an APG paper at some point in their career - but I digress), the creative team gets to go to Cannes and sleep in their own vomit outside the Gutter Bar, the director's the one who gets to sleep with the furiously hot girl he cast - hell, we don't even get a mention on the list of credits in Campaign.

And so we remain - part of the work, but not tainted by it. Seeing everything, but emotionally attached (at least, to an unhealthy degree) to nothing. I'm not suggesting we don't care - of course we care. But a little distance allows us an objectivity that someone who's either done the work, or whose livelihood is directly threatened by the work could never enjoy. And that's why we are best placed to write about it and the industry that provides it.

Plus, we have much better lunch stories and much more dirt than you do.

PS The counter-argument to all of this, I suppose, is Suits shouldn't be blogging because they're utterly beholden to the client and incapable of forming their own opinions and thoughts on anything bar lunching venues. But those are 'Bad Suits', which are an entirely different breed.


Anonymous said...

I would also argue that Suits are the only ones really involved in the Business of advertising.

The creatives make ads. The planners make strategy. The clients make results. But when it comes down to the actual nuts and bolts of running an agency like a business, that's your account man.

(Arguably, Finance does this as well, but in a more granular form. Not that a Finance blog wouldn't be fascinating - there's no question they see more of the big picture than anyone else.)

(Oops. Also arguably, Project Management/Traffic/Whatever. Except their prespective is internalized. Again, a PM blog would make great reading, but what PM has the time for it?)