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.

Friday, 14 August 2009

AdLand Suit - 50 Posts In

Well, it's now five and half months, 56 posts, two beers, a couple of brilliantly awkward telephone interviews, a lot of emails and one post of the month award (of which I am inordinately proud - if your content's not up to scratch, turn it into a popularity contest) since I first posted on ALS. I can admit now that I wasn't sure at the outset quite where this blog would take me, whether I'd interest myself enough to continue writing and whether I'd write anything interesting enough to get people reading. I'm pretty pleased with how it's worked out.

My initial thinking was fairly clear: blogs are good, important and useful sources of information, that can help guide and influence the thinking of our industry; there are currently no blogs of note written by Suits; this is a bad thing. So I started to write one. I think I originally created AdLand Suit as a character - he wasn't just going to be a Suit, he was going to be every Suit since the dawn of time. Needless to say, that didn't last. Not because it was overly ambitious, I don't think, but just because it was a rubbish idea. If my initial point was that it's a shame Suits aren't blogging, then setting up what would essentially have been a spoof blog would have been a very odd response. So the reality is that AdLand Suit is just a pseudonym - he's me, writing about my life, my views, my experiences, and even meeting and talking to people as me, but a me with a different name, as the few who know me in both guises will testify. And it's been brilliant. I've enjoyed the writing, I've enjoyed the discussion the writing has provoked and I've enjoyed meeting and talking to people that I wouldn't have come across without the blogging. Writing ALS has been, and continues to be an incredibly rewarding experience, and has hopefully been of use to some of the people that read it.

So why aren't more Suits doing it? In the first post I wrote, I set out some fairly facetious (and certainly defensive) reasons as to why it might be, and I still don't believe any of them are valid. I believe now even more that Suits have a voice that should be heard, and that the industry would benefit from the opportunity to hear it. So where are they? Is it possible, as the total-pussycat-in-real-life Colman suggested when I met up with him recently, that I'm just wrong? That Suits on the whole don't care about the work and their role in it, and that I'm one of the minority that's conceited and delusional enough to think that I have something to say that's worth listening to? Obviously enough, I don't think so. (NB Colman doesn't either. I don't think.)

I think it boils down to two things: firstly, time; secondly, attitude. I'll deal with time first.

I'm not going to suggest that Suits are the busiest people in an Agency. Yes, we work sodding hard, but so do planners and creatives. As Ben rightly points out here, a creative's work doesn't end when they leave their office. (Neither does a Suit's, by the way, but that's by-the-by.) But I would argue that a Suit has a lot less influence over the structure of their day that either a planner or a creative. He or she will, as a general rule, spend more time in meetings and on conference calls that anybody else, and as a result will find it much harder to schedule in blogging time. I'm not suggesting for a moment that this should be a barrier to blogging (I'm sort of proof myself that it isn't exactly insurmountable), but if you're someone who's not exactly convinced that it's the best use of your time anyway then it's a pretty good excuse.

And that brings me to my second point - attitude. I have a feeling that there are two attitudes fairly prevalent amongst a lot of Suits: one, that blogging isn't really their world; and two, that it wouldn't necessarily be that useful to them if it was. For planners, blogging makes sense. It's a new space to explore thinking, to share ideas and to discuss concepts with likeminded or contrary people. For creatives, it's a chance to show off their ideas and bitch about the industry and their peers without having to actually go to the pub. (I'm teasing. Sort of.) But for Suits, the fit is less obvious. A Junior Suit will come straight from University, and he or she will be chucked in at the deep end of an extremely stressful industry. Nobody becomes a Suit because they want to be a businessman - they become a Suit because they want to work in advertising, and because they foolishly believe everything they read on blogs that claim being a Suit is the
best job in advertising (seriously though, it is). And then they don't get to do any of the fun stuff. Suddenly they have to worry about timing plans, contact reports, status reports, billing spreadsheets, maconomy and booking travel. After 14 years of 10 week summer holidays, they have to learn to deal with 20 days annual holiday and 70 hour weeks, and they don't even get to draw pictures. It's a hell of a lot to take on, and it's no wonder that blogging (either the reading or the writing thereof) doesn't feature that high up their list of priorities.

And that mindset can stick with you. Blogging is often frivolous, it is often facetious, and it's far too easy to forget that frivolity and facetiousness are a hugely important part of our industry. And when you have that beaten into you as an Account Exec, it's going to stick with you as an AM and beyond. If you want to be a Suit, the ad has to go out on time, you have to speak to the Clients before they get a chance to chase you and you have to know what problems are going to arise before they happen, and avoid them. But if you want to be a great Suit, you have to care about every aspect of the business, and that means challenging the way you think, analysing the way you and the industry perform, and taking every possible opportunity to learn from the people that are doing it right. As Mr McGuinness says, we Suits need to change the way we think, and the way we work, and blogging, whilst not the answer, is a pretty good start. People don't expect Suits to blog, they don't expect them to be commenting on creative blogs, and they don't expect them to care as much about the work as the creatives do. We have to prove them wrong. Which is, to be frank, a brilliant brief. It's not about challenging for the sake of challenging, it's not about being the smug, obstreperous git in the corner, and it's not about forgetting the fundamentals of Account Handling - everything still needs to run smoothly, everything still needs to go out on time, and great concepts have to be sold before they can become great ads. It's about challenging yourself to be better than you are. And if blogging can help you do that, then it's quite simple - make time, and get blogging. It doesn't matter if nobody reads it if it's making you better at what you do.

So, Jerry Maguire moment over, where next for ALS? I'm working on a few things, particularly attempts to grow the Suit community on-line (check us out on Facebook - hey, it's a start) and then to take that off-line, looking at real world meet-ups/conferences/whatever. The writing will of course continue, and hopefully continue to be useful. And that's where I'd love your input - how would you like to see ALS develop, or change? What should I be writing about more? What should I be writing about less? Let me know in the comments, and I'll either act on it, or I'll ignore you. Either way, your thoughts will be appreciated.

So, in short, I'm loving writing ALS, I'm loving the relationships I've formed and am forming as a result of it, and I'm loving what I've learned as a result. Thank you for reading and being a part of it. Now stop pissing about on blogs and get back to work.


andrea n said...

Very nice post indeed - a lot of the suits I knew were not very much into the work we were doing. In fact it was very much an ego fight most of the time. The "I did all this" instead of "The team did all this". While everyone acknowledges their hard work and dedication towards a successful pitch, some credit where credit is due would be nice. And no nonsense about creative being 50% of the agency and 'everyone else' crammed in the remaining 50%.

Paul H. Colman said...

It's been nice having you aboard this whole blogging malarky.

simon said...

It's brilliant knowing there are passionate, articulate and sensitive suits still out there. Keep it coming.

AdLand Suit said...

Aw, bless. I'm very happy to be here.

real men write long copy said...

I agree, keep going, you're onto a winner as the blogging world's been crying out for a suit wot can write.
In fact the only post of yours I didn't like was the one about music. I think that's because I don't like the idea of suits having a soul. and i certainly don't like the idea of sharing music tastes with them.

AdLand Suit said...

Don't you worry, Mr RMWLC - I may be able to write, but I certainly don't have a soul. (PS Which music taste do we share?)