I was a Mad Man before Mad Men was a catch phrase. I rode the Merry Go Round for some of the biggest ad firms in the world at the time. I was young, my first job I was 17. Reading the blog of Linds’ I certainly knew what he was talking about – because I committed suicide years ago, professional suicide that is. As a young man in Manhattan I was fortunate to meet the right people who helped me gain access to the guilded halls of Madison Avenue Ad Agencies. I met, and worked with some of the legends, yet all the while I was categorically uninterested in the fervor of promotion, accolades and awards. NOT to say I didn’t want them just a little. I remember showing my television reel to my new wife and after 20 minutes of sitting on the couch watching them and smiling at me as if she was impressed I knew half way through we were still only watching television commercials!! I knew then I would never go back as I had lost my ad job some time before due to a catastrophic recession in ’92 in LA, I had since started painting murals. I have never looked back as my close friends were still slogging it out, One today is the head of Omnicom in LA and he was recently diagnose with stage 1 throat cancer. So read Linds Blog and please take away for his and my brief comments that to live your life for work that excludes your family and friends is the greatest sin!
Linds Redding, a New Zealand-based art director who worked at BBDO and Saatchi & Saatchi, died last month at aged 52 from an inoperable esophageal cancer.
Redding also kept a blog, and after his passing an essay he wrote about the ad business, titled “A Short Lesson In Perspective,” has gained a new and sudden life, on the SF Egotist and on Adfreak.
It will not make happy reading for the many people who knew Redding, know of his work, or anyone who works in the creative department of an ad agency.
In sum, Redding, wrote, life as a creative isn’t worth it. “It turns out I didn’t actually like my old life nearly as much as I thought I did,” he wrote, after he was diagnosed.
The screed addresses the existential problem at the center of anyone’s career in advertising: Can you marry art and commerce and be fulfilled as a human being?
Redding concludes the answer is no. His story could apply to anyone’s job, in any industry. It’s sobering stuff. Here’s an excerpt of the most brutal bits (you can read the full essay here.)
And here’s the thing.
It turns out I didn’t actually like my old life nearly as much as I thought I did. I know this now because I occasionally catch up with my old colleagues and work-mates. They fall over each other to enthusiastically show me the latest project they’re working on. Ask my opinion. Proudly show off their technical prowess (which is not inconsiderable.) I find myself glazing over but politely listen as they brag about who’s had the least sleep and the most takeaway food. “I haven’t seen my wife since January, I can’t feel my legs any more and I think I have scurvy but another three weeks and we’ll be done. It’s got to be done by then The client’s going on holiday. What do I think?”
What do I think?
I think you’re all f***ing mad. Deranged. So disengaged from reality it’s not even funny. It’s a f***ing TV commercial. Nobody gives a s***.
This has come as quite a shock I can tell you. I think, I’ve come to the conclusion that the whole thing was a bit of a con. A scam. An elaborate hoax.
Countless late nights and weekends, holidays, birthdays, school recitals and anniversary dinners were willingly sacrificed at the altar of some intangible but infinitely worthy higher cause. It would all be worth it in the long run…
This was the con. Convincing myself that there was nowhere I’d rather be was just a coping mechanism. I can see that now. It wasn’t really important. Or of any consequence at all really. How could it be. We were just shifting product. Our product, and the clients. Just meeting the quota. Feeding the beast as I called it on my more cynical days.
So was it worth it?
Well of course not. It turns out it was just advertising. There was no higher calling